On December 2, 2005 Van Nguyen, a 24-year-old Australian, was hanged by the state of Singapore for trafficking 400 grams of heroin. Van was the first Australian to be executed in many years. His story captured a nation and flooded news outlets across the country.
Three years earlier, Van Nguyen was arrested whilst in transit at Singapore's Changi Airport. He was found with heroin strapped to his body and in his hand luggage. Under Singapore's strict drug laws he automatically faced a mandatory death sentence. Van was not a seasoned drug trafficker, he had no prior criminal record and this trip was the first time he had left Australia.
Filmed over two years, Just Punishment tells the story behind the media face of Van Nguyen and the remarkable journey to try and keep him alive. Through a mixture of exclusive interviews, never before seen footage and excerpts from Van's prison diaries, the program tracks the personal stories of Van and his inner circle over two years, from the time he received his death sentence to his execution.
It traces Van's change from naive, young man to someone who became wise beyond his years, who in the face of the hangman's noose came to fearlessly accept his fate and leave peace in the hearts of those who fought to save him.
Van's friends and family were shocked by the news of his arrest, including his twin brother who was, in part, the motivation for Van's ill-fated trip. His arrest brought together an unlikely group who formed Van's inner circle as his case moved from legal process to a diplomatic plea.
In the weeks preceding Van Nguyen's hanging the Australian public was gripped by media reports detailing the unceasing efforts to save the young drug dealer's life. Despite the number of states within the Asian region which practise capital punishment, it had been 12 years since an Australian citizen faced execution. The media interest was intense, diplomatic tension ensued and public opinion was split.