Published: 14 October 2021
Chairman and AMMD Leader of the Kingdom of Cambodia,
Your Excellency General Chuon Sovann
Excellencies from ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN Secretariat,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Cambodian Government for hosting the 7th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Drug Matters. It is important that we come together and continue our discussions at these key forums to strengthen ASEAN’s response to the growing drug problem in our region.
2. Drugs impose a high cost, not just on abusers but also their families and society. Singapore remains steadfast in our mission to keep Singapore drug-free.
Local and Regional Drug Situation
3. In 2020, Singapore authorities seized drugs with an estimated market value of about S$12.18 million, which was almost double that in 2019. Despite travel restrictions brought about by COVID-19, drug trafficking has persisted.
4. Drug traffickers have adapted their modus operandi and they use novel methods to smuggle drugs, including hiding them inside fruits, and using drones to fly them across different borders.
5. We arrested about 3,000 drug abusers in 2020. Methamphetamine, heroin, and New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) were the three most commonly abused drugs in 2020. Of concern, we continue to see a high proportion of new drug abusers arrested last year, making up about 38 per cent of the total arrests.
6. The regional drug situation is also of concern. According to the 2021 UNODC Regional Synthetic Drugs in East and Southeast Asia Report, a record 169 tons of methamphetamine were seized in the region in 2020. This shows that drug traffickers are very swift and adept at circumventing prevailing border and travel restrictions to conduct their illegal activities. Law enforcement efforts must evolve and stay ahead of these threats.
Singapore’s Anti-Drug Strategy
7. Singapore adopts a comprehensive harm prevention strategy encompassing upstream preventive drug education, tough laws and rigorous enforcement, and effective rehabilitation.
Upstream Preventive Drug Education
8. The use of information technology and social media has indeed seen significant growth in our region. Our preventive drug education efforts must therefore adapt to such trends.
9. For example, as part of our annual anti-drug abuse campaign, Singapore held an online concert in February this year, which featured local celebrities who conveyed anti-drug messages through song and dance performances.
10. Youths are an important target segment in our prevention efforts, as 41 per cent of drug abusers arrested are aged below 30. Besides implementing a school-based preventive drug education, we work closely with youths to co-create drug prevention programmes for different age groups.
Tough Laws and Rigorous Enforcement
11. On our enforcement efforts, Singapore’s Central Narcotics Bureau conducts rigorous enforcement against drug abusers and traffickers. Last year, more than 500 anti-drug operations were conducted, resulting in the disruption of 24 drug trafficking syndicates.
12. Enforcement must be supported by legislation. While NPS is a growing concern, there are limitations in our current enforcement approach as traffickers and abusers switch very quickly to new forms of NPS that have yet to be listed as controlled drugs in the legislation. These are gaps that we need to urgently address.
Rehabilitation and Aftercare
13. Singapore invests heavily in rehabilitation and aftercare because we believe in giving opportunities to every drug abuser to lead drug-free and productive lives. Our evidence-based drug rehabilitation approach includes psychological interventions, family programmes, and skills training. These interventions help drug abusers overcome their addiction and support their reintegration into society. They also undergo compulsory supervision that incorporates regular urine or hair testing to help them stay clear of drugs.
14. No country can win the fight against drugs on its own. Close cooperation between our agencies is crucial in our fight against drugs.
15. Here, Singapore would like to express our sincere appreciation to fellow ASEAN Member States for your assistance and cooperation in our joint operations and investigations against drug trafficking syndicates.
16. Aside from joint operations and regional capacity building, ASEAN should also strengthen our cooperation in matters relating to international drug control policy. Singapore is disappointed with the outcome of last year’s vote at the Commission of Narcotic Drugs (or CND) to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from the schedule IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. This move could mislead people into thinking that cannabis is no longer harmful. The UNODC’s World Drug Report 2021 found that the percentage of adolescents who perceived the drug as harmful fell significantly even as cannabis potency has quadrupled. In fact, the same report found that cannabis remains the most widely abused drug in the world, even though the harms are well-documented. These are worrying trends.
17. In the face of intensifying calls to liberalise the international drug control policies, we urge all ASEAN Member States to work together and speak with a common voice at international fora. As a bloc, it is vital for ASEAN to stand together and united to uphold the vision of a drug-free ASEAN and maintain zero-tolerance stance.
18. Chairman and excellencies, I would also like to take this opportunity to inform you that Singapore will be running for membership of the CND, for the term 2024-2027. If we are successful in our bid, we will work with you to lend a bigger voice to ASEAN at international fora. We would like to thank Brunei, Laos, and Indonesia for supporting our membership bid at the 42nd ASOD held last month, and also seek the support from ASEAN Member States.
19. Singapore is committed to maintain our anti-drug efforts, and will fully support ASEAN’s efforts to maintain our collective zero-tolerance stance against drugs. We will work closely together with all ASEAN Member States and the international community to safeguard our region against the scourge of drugs.
20. Thank you.