Nguyen living his last days to the fullest, say friends

SINGAPORE - Condemned drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van is at peace and living the last days of his life to the fullest, his friends say.

He has even made arrangements for his own funeral, picking out the songs he wants.

The Melbourne man is scheduled to hang at dawn on Friday, but is in surprisingly good spirits, Kelly Ng and Bronwyn Lew said after visiting Nguyen in Singapore's Changi Prison.

While Singapore hangman Darshan Singh has hinted at a possible eleventh hour reprieve for the 25-year-old drug trafficker, all legal avenues to save the Australian appear exhausted.

With time ticking away before he is due to be taken to the gallows, Nguyen's distraught mother Kim, twin brother Khoa, and friends Ng and Lew today continued to say their goodbyes with extended visits.

Ng said in pooled TV interviews: "He looks very well, he's been keeping himself very well, and I think that's just because he wants to live life to the fullest while he still can."

Lew added: "It is quite clear that he has accepted what is going to happen and that his primary concern is how we are going to be coping and whether or not we are going to be OK."

The Melbourne friends spoke of sharing "happy tears" with a man who has come to terms with his looming execution.

"Seeing him be at peace gave me a sense of relief and happiness for him and I was able to truly tell him that I was really happy that he was at peace," Ng said.

"He really wanted just to make sure we're OK and told us that we need to accept it as well. And that if we wanted to cry we should cry with him because he's of better use being there for us, rather than having us walk away in tears. That would just hurt him more."

Lew said a "radiant" looking Nguyen was making the most of the time he has left.

But Nguyen has also made plans for his funeral, in part to save his friends the trouble.

"He just mentioned the songs he wants played (at the funeral)," said Ng. "He says that he wants to look his best."

Those visiting Nguyen are separated from him by glass, but Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has appealed directly to the Singapore government to let Kim Nguyen hug her son before he is hanged.

"I would have thought it's not an unreasonable thing for a mother to hug her son before the son is executed," Downer said.

Lawyer Lex Lasry left Melbourne for Singapore yesterday still hoping for a reprieve, but admitted that Nguyen's case looked "close to hopeless".

"This is a young man who is ready to die, and he's ready to die a good death and a brave death," he said.

Singapore hangman Darshan Singh suggested Nguyen, sentenced to death after being caught at Singapore airport with nearly 400 grams of heroin, could still be spared.

"Maybe they may say at the eleventh hour ... they may give him a life sentence, it's still possible," the 74-year-old told Reuters.

Singh has carried out hundreds of executions in a career spanning 48 years and said if he was called on to hang Nguyen, he would be efficient.

"With me, they (the prisoners) don't struggle. I know the real way. If it's a raw guy, they will struggle like chickens, like fish out of the water," Singh said.

Mr Lasry said he hoped whoever executed Nguyen knew what they were doing, adding: "If our client must die, I want him to die a painless death. I don't want him to suffer."

Singh supports the anti-drug laws in Singapore, which has repeatedly rejected Australian calls for Nguyen to be granted clemency.

"You are talking about the life of one drug trafficker. But what about the thousands who suffer because of the drugs? They become complete failures, their lives are ruined," he said.

A Sikh who converted to Islam, Singh said execution was a means of "complete rehabilitation".

"I'm changing their character to a different one because I believe in rebirth and they will be better men next time."


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