Singapore urges ASEAN to stand firm against decriminalising drugs for medical use

SINGAPORE: The war against drugs in ASEAN was given a boost on Thursday morning (Oct 20) with the launch of a 10-year plan to combat drug abuse, as well as a message for the region to stand firm against legalising drugs.  

The ASEAN Work Plan on Securing Communities Against Illicit Drugs was officially adopted at the opening of the fifth ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Drug Matters, held in Singapore.  

At the start of the two-day conference, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean highlighted the dangers of approving the use of certain drugs for medical reasons.  

Mr Teo said some counties have tried to “normalise and decriminalise drugs”. “We must guard against this as the consequences are serious,” he added.  

He also cited a recent report of how a children’s hospital in Colorado, United States, had seen a doubling of marijuana poisoning cases among children, two years after marijuana was legalised. Mr Teo urged fellow ASEAN countries to prepare for this global debate and push for a zero-tolerance approach and prevent harm from drug abuse.  

“As the global debate on drug matters intensifies, what we say as a region will matter,” he said.

Mr Teo also spelt out three areas where ASEAN can work on, to realise a drug-free ASEAN. They included boosting efforts to educate and protect the young from drugs, strengthening laws against drugs and syndicates as well as getting ASEAN to work more closely with one another.  

According to Mr Teo, one of the challenges that must be tackled by the region is the growing trend of buying drugs online. He cited the 2015 Global Drug Survey, which found one in 10 drug users had bought drugs online at least once – twice the number, as compared to those surveyed in 2013. 

Another concern is the presence of the Golden Triangle – lined by Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. The Golden Triangle is one of the world’s busiest illegal drug-producing areas, occupying 22 per cent of the world’s land used for opium poppy cultivation, Mr Teo said.  

The 10-year work plan against drugs will be reviewed in 2020 and 2024, to ensure plans are up to date with the evolving nature of the drug problem. Singapore is also set to take visiting ASEAN officials on a trip on Friday to a local drug rehabilitation centre.

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