Malaysia: A new approach to death penalty awareness


In conjunction with World Day against the Death Penalty which is held on 10 October and commemorated throughout the month of October, Amnesty International Malaysia has published a campaign video to raise awareness about the death penalty situation in Malaysia.

The video depicts a social experiment where a selected group of participants were invited for a dinner entitled “Dining with Amnesty”. The participants were served with a fixed variety of food options to dine on which included steak, fried chicken, plain white rice with vegetables, raw tomato salad, milk, orange juice and water. Halfway through the experiment, a short presentation was shown and it was revealed that the food options provided to the participants were last meal options to death row inmates around the world.

“We knew for a fact that we needed to learn to change the way we talk and raise awareness about the death penalty here in Malaysia. Food connects people. Hence, we decided to put a spin on this culture by putting a diverse group of people in one place for experiment. What we showcased in the experiment is an interpretation of how the food is served to death row inmates. We do not have information about how it is served to them as it is not made public,” said Gwen Lee, Campaigner and Acting Executive Director, Amnesty International Malaysia.

There are still 1,122 inmates are still on death row while 829 have been sentenced to death since 2010, as of 2016 in Malaysia. Malaysia practices “secret executions”, where families and the death row inmates are notified days before their execution. The public is not notified of executions.

“There is no clear public data as to how many people have been executed thus far in Malaysia. Based on analysis done by Amnesty International Malaysia of present data, we believe about 16 executions have taken place from 2010 till now. This information was compiled from our secretariat’s work through media monitoring, information from death row inmates’ family and parliamentary replies,” said Gwen Lee.

In August, Minister in the Prime Minister’s department, Azalina Othman Said said that the cabinet unanimously agreed to the amendment to Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act and the cabinet had decided that the act should allow judges the right to decide on more appropriate sentences such as jail terms.

“Although we welcome this review, I still echo our previous statement that this should only be considered as a first step of total abolition,” said Gwen Lee.

“The death penalty is such a heavy topic and sometimes people choose to ignore it because what are the odds of it affecting them. With the release of this video, we want the public to step in the shoes of death row in mates on what one of the things we take for granted. We hope that with this video will open up the conversation on the death penalty,” she said.

Link for the video campaign of the social experiment:



The campaign for Hoo Yew Wah

This year the World Day against the Death Penalty (10 October) focuses on the link between the death penalty and poverty. Research shows that people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds are disproportionately affected in their experience of the criminal justice system and often carry the burden of the death penalty.

On World Day against the Death Penalty, Amnesty International is launching an appeal for Hoo Yew Wah, on death row in Malaysia. He was convicted of and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, having been arrested in 2005. Hoo Yew Wah has a disadvantaged socio-economic background, having left school to work as a cook for a street restaurant at the age of 11. He was 20 at the time of the crime, which was not violent in addition to being his first offence. He has asked for pardon from the Sultan of Johor state, who has the ability to grant him clemency.

Hoo Yew Wah was convicted on the basis of a statement he made at the time of arrest in Mandarin – later translated by the police into Malay – without a lawyer present. He also says that on the day after his arrest, while detained at the District Police Headquarter in Johore, the police broke his finger and threatened to beat his girlfriend to make him sign the statement. The judges in his case dismissed these concerns.

“We are joining in support of Hoo Yew Wah and his family to ask His Royal Highness the Sultan of Johor to grant his clemency appeal. His case is well representative of the plight of the death penalty in Malaysia. The time for action is now,” said Gwen Lee.


Mandatory death sentences leave courts no option but to condemn drug offenders to the gallows.  Drug trafficking does not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes” to which the use of the death penalty must be restricted under international human rights law.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases and under any circumstances, regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The organisation considers the death penalty a violation of the right to life as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Pending full abolition of the death penalty, Amnesty International calls for your urgent intervention to halt all executions and to broaden the scope of the proposed reforms to encompass all capital offences; and to abolish the automatic presumptions of drug possession and trafficking allowed under Section 37 of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1952 as initial steps.

Public Document


For more information or to arrange an interview, please call Amnesty International Malaysia’s office in Petaling Jaya, Selangor on:

+603 7955 2680 or

email: [email protected]

twitter & facebook: @AmnestyMy