Singapore Caning Incident

You sold us out, Conover! — Homer, “Bart vs. Australia”

A pimply punk named Michael P. Fay briefly shot to notoriety in 1994 after being sentenced by the Singapore government to six strokes of the cane on his bare buttocks. Fay, an 18 year-old American citizen who lived in Singapore with his family at the time, had of late been terrorizing the streets of the quiet Southeast Asian burg, vandalizing cars and stealing road signs.

Wuh?

Fay’s sentence inflamed various American politicians, who protested that corporal punishment should not be applied to a crime so petty as vandalism. Then-president Bill Clinton also threw his weight in support of a clemency bid, ultimately getting the stroke-count reduced from six to four.

Domestically, Americans were split as to what Fay’s penalty should be. Some felt the Singapore government was overstepping its bounds; others argued that Fay had it coming. A media frenzy ensued. And Fay ended up taking it.

Caning is a private affair in Singapore, so we sadly don’t have a blow-by-blow recount of how Fay endured. We do have some choice details, though:

FRANCIS SEOW, Former Singapore Solicitor General: The person is strapped to a trestle. Then he- his kidney area is covered to insure that no strokes land in the kidney area.

SIEGEL: You mean, so as not to inflict permanent organ damage there?

Mr. SEOW: That’s right. Correct. So, it is aimed at the buttocks, you see. Now, for the cane to inflict maximum pain and punishment, the cane kept dipped in a brine solution. It serves two purposes. One is to keep the cane flexible; the other too is a kind- it also has a kind of antiseptic effect, you see, the salt.

Forty whacks with a wet noodle, Bart.

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