Days after being flogged for drugs offences at the notorious Changi prison in Singapore, former British public schoolboy Ye Ming Yuen lies face down in his cell, in excruciating pain.
The open wounds from 24 strokes of a 4ft bamboo cane to his naked buttocks are so severe, they still ooze blood.
All he has is a towel to stem the flow. Sitting is impossible.
So horrific are his injuries that when a paralegal saw them this week, she almost fainted.
Unable to sleep, Yuen prays to God to calm his fears of long-term physical damage.
Bowel problems have plagued him since the caning.
Today we can reveal the brutal effects of the ‘judicial corporal punishment’ meted out to convicts in Singapore with an eye-witness account from Yuen’s human rights lawyer and his own words from prison.
London-born former public schoolboy Ye Ming Yuen, 31, was flogged naked in Singapore for drugs offences
‘The first thing Ming said when he came into the prison visiting room was “see this” and pulled his shorts down at the back and it just looked horrendous,’ says Ravi Madasamy, better known as M Ravi or Mr Ravi, who is contemplating legal action under international human rights law.
‘All over his buttocks were multiple marks and deep lacerations. It was so shocking my female paralegal who was with me almost fainted.
‘The wounds were so deep with blood, flesh and layers of the skin exposed. He didn’t have any bandages, just a towel to put over the buttocks. He couldn’t sit for too long so he was standing up.
‘It was the first time I had seen raw injuries like this and it left me deeply affected, thinking, “How can this be allowed to happen in a civilised country?”
‘Usually my clients come to me years later, complaining of long-term injuries, so I only see the scars, so this was really shocking, but Ming wants the world to know the brutal reality of this barbaric punishment.’
This month the Mail exclusively revealed that Yuen had been stripped and flogged over a frame just one week after a last-ditch appeal for clemency failed.
Today, the 31-year-old is at the centre of a diplomatic row between Britain and Singapore over the caning, condemned by human rights campaigners as ‘inhuman, degrading and indecent’.
A prison officer at Changi Prison in Singapore demonstrates the caning on a mannequin
On top of a 20-year sentence, he was given the maximum number of strokes a male inmate can receive.
Taken, without warning, from his cell to Changi’s notorious caning room after being declared medically fit enough by prison doctors to withstand the punishment, Yuen described to Mr Ravi his ordeal.
Joined by a handful of other inmates, only he faced the maximum 24 strokes.
Ordered to strip naked, he had to listen to the screams of other prisoners knowing he would receive two or three times as many strokes.
When it was his turn, he was strapped to an A-frame trestle, with his naked buttocks exposed, as a series of experienced caners took turns to deliver the blows with a cane soaked in water to increase flexibility and strength.
In Britain, Yuen’s offences might have resulted in 12 months in prison at most.
Yuen was once a pupil at £41,000-a-year at the prestigious Westminster School in London
Mr Ravi, who saw Yuen on Monday, says he is a shadow of the confident, academically gifted young man who once posed for photographs in dinner jacket and bow tie.
Dressed in prison uniform of white T-shirt and brown shorts, the Briton, who was once a pupil at £41,000-a-year Westminster School, appears diminished, his spirit broken.
Despite Yuen telling his family he ‘felt no fear’ in a letter from prison, Mr Ravi says: ‘It was very scary for Ming and he described to me how, when he was being caned, he was suddenly pushed and bent over a trestle.
‘It must have been agonising but he told me he was able to withstand it by imagining they were being kinder to him than they could have been.
Ravi Madasamy, better known as M Ravi or Mr Ravi, who is contemplating legal action under international human rights law
‘Every six strokes, they gave him a break and then a new caner takes over because they use all their strength in just those six strokes.
‘He told me, “I’m so relieved it’s over. Afterwards we were all lying down on a bench with blood oozing. They sprayed us with iodine and then a doctor came round giving us painkillers and antibiotics. Why cause all that pain and then offer painkillers?”
‘In his mind he thinks, “You have damaged me, taken out your anger on me, and what do you achieve? The whole thing is meaningless when you have doctors wandering past asking ‘What pain do you have?’ after the State caused all the damage.” ’
Mr Ravi adds: ‘After the caning Ming couldn’t sleep because, for the first two days, the blood was still coming out and he couldn’t control his bowels.
‘Some people have this bowel problem for a lifetime, so we are very concerned and ask, “Is this ethical?” ’
The deep impact from the strokes and physical shock are known to affect the whole body, which — according to Amnesty International’s 2010 report A Blow To Humanity — can result in loss of consciousness and muscle control, uncontrollable shaking, psychological trauma, loss of appetite, absence of sex drive and scars.
Human rights lawyers say some, who have endured far fewer lashes than Yuen, complain of life-long debilitating spinal and kidney issues, despite the use of protective padding in these areas.
The convicted drug dealer received the brutal punishment after he lost his final appeal against the sentence
Some prisoners claim they’ve been left with lasting erectile dysfunction.
Indeed, all those who believe Yuen got everything he deserved and applaud Singapore’s tough, zero-tolerance stance on crime, might want to think how they would feel if it was their loved one lying in his prison cell right now.
‘Before the caning, I could see that Ming was preparing himself, but there was also a lot of trepidation,’ says Mr Ravi.
‘I have clients who are very stocky and strong and they dread just six canes. This guy has quite a small frame, and — oh my God — they gave him 24 strokes? It’s horrible, cruel and barbaric.
‘Ming is a misguided kid, not a hardcore, criminal drug trafficker and after the caning it was like speaking to someone who has been raped — his dignity has been robbed.
‘He didn’t cry in front of me and tried to be stoic, but his sense of outrage at being physically violated reminded me of victims of violence.’
He adds: ‘Before, he was always very chatty and cheery but now he seems detached from life, as if part of his personality is missing. He is very quiet, different. All his confidence has gone.’
Mr Ravi says he is ‘very disappointed’ with the British Government’s efforts on Yuen’s behalf, especially since it was the British Empire which introduced legally sanctioned corporal punishment in its former colony in the 19th century.
Yuen (pictured at school) was a pupil at Dulwich Prep School in south London and then Westminster School
‘The former foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to his credit spoke up last year, but since then there has been nothing, and the caning just went ahead, before I could even explain the judgment to him. They just came for him which is very cruel,’ says Mr Ravi, who explains clients often see him years after their caning complaining of health issues.
‘The question they ask is, “The state has a right to punish, but does it have the right to damage the kidneys? To damage the spine? Do they have the right to take away the chance to get married, have a kid and live a normal life?”
‘Singapore is a signatory to the UN Treaty which prohibits torture and caning has been described as torture by international jurisprudence, so our client has his rights under international law.
‘A case may be filed against the Singapore State.’
Until his arrest in 2016, Yuen was a young man with a string of glittering GCSE exam grades and growing fame as a club DJ in his mother’s native Singapore.
He moved there aged 17 to live with relatives after his Chinese-born businessman father, Alex, who died in March from coronavirus aged 71, was made bankrupt and could not afford school fees.
Yuen was looking for a fresh start after falling in with the wrong crowd in Britain and trouble over an alleged fake ID scam, sold to other pupils to buy alcohol and cigarettes.
His family, unaware of his recreational drug use — which started in his teens — were proud of his success after he was voted Singapore’s best DJ, with his face appearing on billboards and magazine covers.
But stopped and searched by police in a park four years ago, Yuen was found in possession of a small amount of drugs.
He claimed they were for his own use, but admitted sharing them with wealthy expat friends and pleaded guilty to drug trafficking.
While on bail awaiting sentence he was caught using again and given the maximum sentence for ‘repeated drug trafficking’.
In 2007, it emerged that Yuen was wanted by Scotland Yard over an alleged forged driving licences scam
His family and lawyer say he was unwell and after months of staying clean took drugs again — he insists only for his own personal use — in a moment of weakness.
Two offences related to 69g and 60g of cannabis, while another involved 15g of crystal meth.
Those caught in possession of more than 500g face the death penalty by hanging.
Speaking before she became Home Secretary, Priti Patel condemned Yuen’s sentence as ‘reprehensible’, adding: ‘This sounds like something from the Dark Ages.’
But not even an intervention by then Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt last year could call a halt to the caning, or reduce the strokes.
Ming’s older sister Elysia, 32, who last week told the Mail she was ‘amazed’ her brother withstood 24 strokes without passing out, has spent every day since desperate for news.
This week, a censored letter arrived via prison email, parts of which Yuen’s two sisters and mother have decided to share publicly.
His words brim with a burning sense of injustice — not just for himself, but others who have also suffered or might in the future.
And he sends this impassioned plea from his prison cell: ‘I want the British public and international community to stand with me to put an end to caning.
‘It was absolutely brutal, unnecessary, unjust and immoral. And I hope someone will be able to recognise the evil and do something about it.
‘The aftermath isn’t pleasant, and it’s left my patootie in a bit of a mess. Currently I’m lying down on my stomach and have to intermittently wipe the sides of my legs as the blood keeps sweating from my cheeks.’
He adds: ‘My only consideration is that I don’t want to have been caned for nothing.’
Yuen — known for his humour — typically tries to make light of his ordeal by borrowing Frank Sinatra’s lyrics to his classic song My Way — ‘The record shows, I took the blows, and did it my way.’
He writes: ‘I think I took it with a commendable equanimity. It was painful, but what is pain?
‘Temporal matters don’t really concern me much, although it hasn’t changed how I feel about the whole thing.
‘I feel a lot of relief that it’s finally over, but at the same time a bit disappointed that there’s nothing left to fight. As for the sentence, I guess I don’t have a choice but to accept it.’
Yuen moved to Singapore from Britain at the age of 17 to live with his mother’s family after his father was made bankrupt
Elysia, who says the family has for four years lived with the ‘psychological torture’ of not knowing if or when the caning would be carried out, told the Mail: ‘We were just happy to hear from Ming, despite the absolutely horrific ordeal.’
Scarred for life by each stroke from the 4ft lash
Inmates flogged in Singapore are stripped naked and strapped to a wooden trestle.
Then two officers take it in turns to inflict maximum pain with a 4ft rattan cane, about half an inch in diameter, by whipping them up to 24 times across their bare buttocks.
After three strokes it is not uncommon for the prisoner to pass out. Yuen would have received little warning of yesterday’s caning.
He told the Mail last year he was living in a state of permanent fear. ‘Of course, I’m scared,’ he said.
‘I’ve heard so many horror stories from inmates who have been caned, of scars left on them, of canes breaking during the punishment and having to be replaced and how, after every few strokes, the caner is replaced to ensure each stroke is the same intensity.’
There was an outcry in 1994 when US student Michael Fay, then 19, was sentenced to six strokes of the cane in Singapore for vandalism.
It was later reduced to four strokes following an appeal by then US president Bill Clinton.
Fay is said to have shouted ‘I’m dying’ when the first stroke was delivered.
She adds: ‘Ming appears upbeat, as he normally does, but I can only think this is his coping mechanism.
‘I don’t know how to put my feelings into words, thinking about what he must have suffered.’
Yuen’s family is now fighting for him to continue his sentence in a British prison, so they can visit him more regularly.
Since his incarceration they’ve only been able to visit Singapore once a year.
Elysia has also taken to Facebook to express her ‘heartbreak’ and announce that she ‘wishes to campaign to abolish all forms of corporal punishment, including caning and the death penalty’.
Appealing for support, she ~writes: ‘In the fight for our fundamental rights as humans not to be tortured and to bring my little brother home, I cannot remain silent or stand still in the background.’
Though Yuen’s family say that ‘in no way, shape or form’ do they excuse his drugs crimes and respect Singapore’s laws, they feel his sentence was unduly harsh.
Elysia continues: ‘My brother is not a drug lord, he didn’t have people running drugs for him. I strongly feel that the sentence of 20 years and 24 strokes of the cane was grossly disproportionate to the crime committed.’
Mr Ravi agrees: ‘Someone who is convicted to life imprisonment in Singapore is entitled to ask after 20 years for release, so Ming’s sentence is actually life imprisonment.’
In his letter, Elysia’s brother writes that he is resigned to his fate and places his faith in God.
‘In the end I don’t think any of this matters, not that it’s not important to fight for what is right or that we should go about our lives apathetically,’ he says, adding, ‘but my new mantra is “very few things matter and nothing matters much at all”.’
He ends by reverting to Frank Sinatra. ‘So now the end is near, and I face the final curtain,’ he says. ‘I bid you adieu and don’t worry I’m OK.’
After 24 strokes of the cane, Elysia fears, how can he ever really be OK again?