Supporters voice their joy over Yong judgment

(Left to Right) Yong Yun Leong, the older brother of Yong Vui Kong; lawyer M Ravi; and Yong Yun Chung, another brother of Vui Kong.

PETALING JAYA - For the past four years, Malaysians kept a ray of hope shining on Yong Vui Kong's plight following his death sentence in 2008 for drug trafficking in Singapore.

The story of the Sabah-born drug courier arrested in the island republic for trafficking 47.2g of heroin when he was just 18 drew much public sympathy.

To campaign for leniency on his behalf, his supporters set up a Facebook page, signed petitions, staged a play, and made plans to produce a film on his life, keeping the former death row inmate's struggle in the public eye.

On the Internet, more than 109,000 people signed petitions for his cause while the "Save Yong Vui Kong" campaign Facebook page has for far attracted 23,818 "likes".

Supporters rejoicing at the decision to commute his death sentence yesterday posted a stream of comments on the Facebook page though many were sad that he still faced a long time behind bars after his sentence was reduced to a life in prison and judicial caning.

"I wonder how long he will be stuck in jail and 15 strokes of the cane is also something I do not agree with," wrote Mark Biggs.

Human rights group Amnesty International Malaysia had chipped in to the cause by staging a play titled Banduan Akhir di Sel Akhir (Final Prisoner in the Last Cell) which dramatised the constant trauma and emotional stress endured by the family members of a prisoner on death row.

His case also inspired a local filmmaker to make a movie based on his life.

To be called Letters From Death Row, the film is being produced by independent film-maker Kit Lim who was touched by Yong's remorse and dignity in facing the prospects of going to the gallows.

Due to limited funds, Lim said he and his crew have started collecting donations online for the venture that should be completed within two years.

The Malaysian Government also lent a hand to Yong's cause.

Wisma Putra in 2010 wrote a letter to the President of Singapore to plead for clemency for Yong.