Image of Kerobokan Prison, Bali, Indonesia © Getty Images.
I've been watching the news on drugs in Bali and the rest of Southeast Asia for some time now, but even this surprised me: a British grandma was sentenced to death by a Balinese court for smuggling cocaine onto the island.
In a shock verdict after prosecutors recommended 15 years imprisonment, Lindsay Sandiford sobbed as the court in Bali's capital Denpasar handed down the sentence.
She was found with a drugs haul worth $2.4 million in her suitcase as she arrived on a flight from Bangkok last May.
...Indonesian police said she was at the centre of a drugs importing ring involving three other Britons and an Indian who have also been arrested.
It was the quantity of the cocaine that doomed her: she brought a whopping 5 kilos of cocaine in her suitcase when she flew to Denpasar last May 19. Faced with the evidence, Mrs. Sandiford turned stool pigeon and provided information that led to the arrest of Paul Beales, Julian Ponder and Rachel Dougall, part of the drug ring that arranged the shipment.
Even that was not enough to save her, and against the recommendation of the prosecution for leniency, the judge slapped her with the maximum sentence: death.
I occasionally get mail from readers who are shocked about Southeast Asia's strict drug laws, and presume to lecture me on how enlightened their country's drug laws are. Point taken. I for one would rather have the Netherlands' drug laws in force than, say, Singapore's, wherever I rest my weary head.
But wishing doesn't make it so: you may rail all you like about the drug laws that send a grandmother to her probable death in Bali, but only a realistic picture of the country's drug laws are of any help to visitors planning to travel into the region.
So let me repeat: don't do drugs in Southeast Asia. Do what you like in your own country - if you have enlightened drug laws, good for you, but don't think you can carry a supply of illegal drugs into the region and assume you won't get caught. Just ask Mrs. Lindsay Sandiford, who found out the hard way.