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Posted by Stewart Auyash at 4:11AM   |  77 comments
Death Penalty for Drug Trafficking

If you are flying into Singapore’s gorgeous Changi Airport, you might hear a message like this before you land: “We would like to remind you that Singapore does not tolerate illegal drugs. The penalties for using and trafficking in illegal drugs are severe and may include the death penalty.”

 Among the highlights of Singapore’s drug policies are these:

*The Misuse of Drugs Act in Singapore allows the police to search anyone they deem to be suspicious of drug use or trafficking without a warrant.

*Police can demand a urinalysis, and the failure to comply carries an automatic presumption of guilt.

*A conviction for trafficking of drugs (which means anyone carrying a certain amount of drugs such as more than 500 grams of cannabis, 30 grams of cocaine, or 15 grams of heroin) carries a mandatory death penalty.

 Thanks to these laws, in 2004, Amnesty International calculated that Singapore had more executions per capita than any country in the world. In 2005, a young Australian was executed for carrying 400 grams of heroin despite rallies and protests in Australia against the execution.

 In 2009, 1883 people were arrested on drug charges. This represented a modest decrease of 2% and allowed the Central Narcotics Bureau to claim that it had drug use under control. So obviously, people do use drugs in Singapore. Their prohibition approach is diametrically opposed to that, for example, of the Netherlands, which uses an approach referred to as “harm reduction.”  

 Those who believe in harm reduction take the approach that drug use will always happen, drug users should be treated not as criminals but as people with social or medical problems, and drug maintenance offers a safer and more beneficial overall model for society than prohibition. For example, the Dutch would treat heroin use as an illness and provide rehabilitation instead of treating them as criminals and providing incarceration.

 The Singapore position is that the drug penalty for trafficking is a deterrent and saves many lives. In a much discussed current case, a 22 year old Malaysian, Yong Vui Kong was sentenced to the death penalty in 2008 for having 47.27 grams of heroin (the mandatory penalty for over possession of over 15 grams). His lawyers filed an appeal in March 2010 and a the appeal was denied on May 14.

 Recently, in response to questions at an open dialogue sessions, Law Minister K. Shanmugam defended Singapore’s policies in a recent article in The Straits Times. According to the news report, he considers cities that have needle exchange programs (an example of harm reduction) have “given up on it” and he cites the “number of lives that have been spoilt”  as a result of drugs. He claims that parents are glad that their children do not have access to drugs in Singapore. In response to criticisms of the Singapore’s policies, he is quoted as having said “You won’t have human rights people standing up and saying: ‘Singapore, you’ve done of great job, having most of your people free of drugs.’ You won’t hear about how many thousands of lives are lost to drugs in other countries” or how many lives have been saved in Singapore thanks to our drug laws. The article mentions that Singapore is a air and sea hub in South Asia near other drug centers and without its strict drug policy it could have been “swamped” with drugs. The Minister added, “Yong Vui Kong is young, but if we say ‘We let you go’, what is the signal were are sending?”

 Some think this policy is in keeping with other mandated bans such as spitting and chewing gum, and certain DVDs such as “Borat,” “A Clockwork Orange,” and “South Park.”  However, prostitution is legal in Singapore, though brothels, pimps, and public solicitation for sex are illegal.  Of course, not all Singaporeans agree with the death penalty for drugs as you can see from the sidebar picture.

 The harshness of the drug penalties in Singapore seem to be a sharp contrast to those in the North America, but the U.S. also bans drugs and has mandatory sentencing laws, but not the death penalty. This is called the “War on Drugs” in the U.S. Many claim this “War” has contributed, if not directly caused, the waves of violence that are rampant in Mexico and some U.S. cities today and the ban itself causes more harm than the drugs. However, not even the most fervent drug warriors have suggested the death penalty would work in the U.S. At least not yet.



As a traveler I find this information very concerning. As you enter a foreign country one does not always consider how the laws differ from what we are used to wherever we are from. For most young people in the United States I would assume the idea of the death penalty for drugs is far fetched. Although I cannot say that this law is wrong and demand change as I am not from Singapore and do not understand the culture and economics, I can say that foreign visitors may need more then a one sentence reminder before entering the country. I know that as I am exiting a plane I do not pay particular attention to what is being said on the loud speaker. I personally feel as though the law should take into account that as visitors individuals should not be subject to the same fierce laws and should be returned their home country upon the condition they receive the maximum sentence they can in that country for having X amount of the drug they are caught with and for its intended purposes. Also a ban should be put on that person for ever entering the country again. On the flip side, I also think it is very important to understand that when you travel there are going to be different laws and you must abide by these laws. Using drugs that are illegal in the United States is not a good idea in other countries.

After reading this blog, I found many aspects interesting. Perhaps the most interesting part of this blog is when they talk about the death penalty as the prime and only punishment for individuals carrying over the legal amount of drugs; and according to Singapore's drug policies, *The Misuse of Drugs Act in Singapore allows the police to search anyone they deem to be suspicious of drug use or trafficking without a warrant. My question is, what is deemed as suspicious? How would someone classify another as looking suspicious of carrying drugs? My issue is that someone who is caught with drugs or the use of drugs, they will be instantly killed. The death penalty is an extreme punishment in my eyes. I am not going against the law but I do think there should be other punishments that come before that. The death penalty should be the last resort. Additionally, when I travel, I rarely ever pay attention to what they say when I get off the plane. Maybe I should be more careful to listen but maybe travelers should be made more aware of what is actually going on or being said rather than a quick statement, especially having never been to Singapore or having any knowledge about the country. I think this is a serious issue and there are necessary steps that should be put into place.

Thanks, Brittney and Chelsey, for your comments. You comments are a reminder that wherever we travel we must be aware not just of local customs, but laws as well. For that matter, anyone traveling with any illegal substances is already putting themselves in danger.

Chelsey, I wasn't sure you meant this, but no, Singapore police do not shoot people instantly upon finding drugs on them. There is a legal justice system.

By the way, Singapore is also one of the wealthiest countries in the world and according to the WHO has the 6th best health system in the world (the US is #37). It is easily the cleanest city I've ever visited and is generally very safe. See my previous blog about it if you wish.

A very enlightening article, thanks for all the detail on the laws of Singapore related to illegal drugs. I am wondering what the Singapore government's position is on alcohol. Specifically, does the Singapore government have the same no tolerance policy regarding alcohol consumption as it does for the noted banned substances in your article? If not, do you know if there more alcohol related problems in Singapore per capita compared to more tolerant countries such as the Netherlands?

I thought this article was enlightening and informational because I know little about foreign drug policies. Prior to reading this article I had no idea that Singapore was such a wealthy place, nor did I know that drug possession carried such a harsh penalty there. I feel that as someone who values health education and harm reduction, that Singapore’s policy on drug possession is extreme, but I agree that there should be consequences for possession and the use of drugs much like the ones we have in the United States. As someone that travels regularly, I don’t believe that Singapore is obligated to give travelers more information than they already provide individuals who enter the country by plane; we expect as Americans that people who visit the United States abide by our laws so why should we expect any less of the laws in other countries. It is our job as the traveler to do research on policies and laws before visiting a country if we have reservations or concerns about particular behaviors or customs. I do feel a little uneasy about the death penalty being a mandatory sentence but I’m not someone that is in a position to judge the policies of another government system. Laws are created for a reason and although I don’t necessarily agree with them, I believe that they serve there purpose.

Thanks for everyone's comments. Responding to Omar, Singapore does have a very high tax on alcohol that is based on the alcohol content of the drink. They also have low alcohol beer so that is the least expensive. A bottle of wine that would cost $10 in the US is between $18-$25 and a $15 bottle of vodka in the US would be at least $45 in Singapore. The prices of alcohol in bars varies by the quality of the venue but is generally higher than in the US.

Another drug containing substance, tobacco, is heavily taxed as well and they have very vivid large pictures showing people's diseased faces on the boxes.

As for guns, the illegal discharge of firearms can also result in the death penalty.

I have heard about Singapore's ridiculous policy concerning drugs and I still cannot believe a country is still so harsh towards it's citizens for such a crime. Do they still cut off your hand if you are caught stealing an apple. It's places like this that really scare me when I leave the U.S. and the protection that it gives me. I am not going to be one to even dare try and bring drugs through customs anywhere, but its the idea that if caught even as a traveler to a new land in which you are probably unaware of the laws you could face the death penalty. I do believe in the death penalty, but only after those found guilty through the correct judicial process of murder should this ever be done. When it comes to drugs, there should be very harsh penalties especially for those selling or caught with mass quantities, I agree, but concerning how much they are carrying or caught with should only be in years sentenced to jail not years sentenced until your death. Concerning Singapore's death penalty with traveler's I feel there has to be another way, at least extradite them back to their country where they will receive their own countries punishment. I still believe they will get the point either way and most likely stay out of Singapore from then on. I understand that Singapore is within a "hot zone" of illegal drug trafficking, but I feel such scare tactics it must be very hard to live in such a place. I don't have knowledge of the area and I am saying this from a tourists view so I would not really know the living conditions of those there. However, after reading this article this is the view of the country I get after reading about how drugs can get you the death penalty, but selling girls bodies to the highest bidder is fine. The scary part about that organization that is legal one can easily say there probably are not a massive number of volunteers, so there has to be other ways to get these girls. It is those ways of getting the girls and keeping them there should not be tolerated.

Anthony, Thanks for comments. I would like to respond to a few things you said. First, they don not "cut off your hand if you are caught stealing an apple" in Singapore. Perhaps you were being sarcastic, but I did not want give the readers the wrong facts.

You also gave the impression that "selling girls bodies to the highest bidder" occurs in Singapore. That is also untrue.

I can't help but agree with most of my peers' comments. I do not really travel outside the United States except for Puerto Rico because of family residing there. This sort of scares me because foreigners do not really know much about policies and laws in other places, including me. I agree that drug abuse needs to be stopped and/or decreased but the death penalty is a bit harsh especially with prostitution being legal. There should be harsh penalties but it should depend on the amount and situation. I agree with Anthony in that the traveler should have their own countries penalties. The death penalty is serious and nothing to toy around with. It does scare people away from drug trafficking, but it is too crazy. Are there different policies on minors or kids? I believe rehab programs and treatment can only help some people. There are people who have mental health problems and there are people who just use it as an excuse. Treatment can be effective but only goes so far. Rehab just be given to first offenders but after that i think they need a penalty. I just don't think the death penalty is justice. Drug abuse has come along way. Look at marijuana and the question whether or not it should be legal? In a few years what other drug will be in this position?
I remember reading about brothels in another course and I cannot believe prostitution is legal, but it is a different culture and different way of living. Every culture is different and has its values. Look at the middle east and the role women play in those areas. We as Americans would typically not agree with that way of life, but other countries look at us and have their own perceptions about us Americans. It is interesting to learn about another place and its policies on drugs and other issues.

-Wow! Before reading this blog, I had no idea what Singapore's laws pertaining to drugs and drug trafficking even were! I totally agree with Britney as I am a traveler as well and never have I ever looked at the various countries laws in which I was traveling too... This is both foolish and ignorant on my part and this article was great in that it almost instilled a fear in me. Not a fear of Singapore or it's culture and people but of being lazy and ignorant to the fact that not all cultures are the same as mine. Too many times I have heard news stories on the television of Americans being caught and charged for something and people protesting and wanting them to be released because they were merely American. In reading this blog, my attention was immediately caught right from the title and I was surprised at how strict they are. I was also surprised at how so many people are still being arrested and sentenced to death. I feel as though if I were to become a drug trafficker I would at least look at the rules on drug trafficking in the country I was trying to smuggle drugs into. But then again, this is probably why I am not and will never be a person smuggling drugs. But what worries me is that what if someone had put their 'things' into your suit case and you get caught with them? Has anything of this sort ever happened?!

After reading this post, I am curious if the drug policies in Singapore actually deter the use and sale of illegal drugs. I am also curious as what Singapore defines as illegal drugs. As evident in the US, heavy handed drug policies are not working. What is working? A story on NPR today gave me a clue; it would seem that dealers in CA are losing money to Medicinal Weed clinics. Who knew? Along those same lines, I once had a sociology professor who said that a surefire way to wipe out all crime was to legalize everything.

Singapore, like the US, has a right and a responsibility to protect both it's borders and it's citizens, and while we may bemoan the perceived unfairness, how is do these practices theoretically differ from Federal authorities busting people who have medical marijuana cards for possession in states where medical marijuana has been legalized? We might believe the Singapore drug laws to be unfair and even unjust, but on our own American soil, anyone can be federally prosecuted for for legalized (but not really) marijuana use. How would a foreign visitor to our country perceive that particular bit of democratic policy? I AM an American, and it sure confuses the hell out of me.

My first feeling after/during reading this was anger. I immediately told my boyfriend, who was just in the other room at the time, "Can you believe this!?! That's so ridiculous! How could they do this?!" These were the immediate thoughts running through my head. Really the death penalty?? After thinking about it a little longer and reading my classmates comments my feelings began to change. I felt ignorant for not knowing about this, and not even thinking about it. I think as Americans, many of us are quick to judge other cultures. It's the unknowing that makes us uncomfortable and quick to say "they are wrong". Maybe the reasoning for such harsh punishments is what the people of Singapore want. Maybe they want a safe, healthy, clean city, with less crime and strict limits on alcohol, tobacco, and drug use, and maybe this works for them. But is it right? In my personal opinion, no, but everyone has their own views on the death penalty. Although I would think that most would assume this to be an extreme case.

In response to the traveling aspect of this, I wonder what would happen if for instance someone from California traveled to Singapore with their personal amount of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Does the death penalty only apply to large quantities of drugs meant for sale? I wonder what the consequences would be if someone was carrying a small personal amount, not meant for sale. Even though it is illegal in the US, many people often give others their prescription drugs, for example, a friend may have given you Xanex (an anti-anxiety drug) so you could relax and sleep on the long flight to Singapore. You save a couple in your pocket for the trip back and they search you at the airport when you arrive. Would the mandatory death penalty hold true in this circumstance? Scary stuff! Obviously I'm not planning on flying with massive amounts of drugs any time soon, but this article has definitely motivated me to become more aware and familiar with the laws and policies of different countries and cultures, especially when traveling.

A couple of other thoughts that come to mind while reading...
What are the crime/drug use/drug associated crime or death statistics like in the Netherlands where they use "harm reduction" as opposed to Singapore? Is there much protesting that goes on in Singapore? How do the people of Singapore feel about these laws? Do they agree? Are drugs really not at all an issue within the country? For instance, in schools, do they teach about drug use? Is it openly discussed, or kept "hush hush" ? I get the impression it's just not talked about, I could be wrong, but it reminds me of how sexuality education is presented in the schools here. Professor, from what you see as you are living there, is there less alcohol and tobacco consumption than in states?

I am very disheartened to hear about the 22 year old that was tried for the deal penalty and his appeal was denied. It is so unfortunate that a boy who probably is or would be an asset to society if given another opportunity. I understand the strict government policy should deter users, but unfortunately this is not the case. Also, considering that a 2% decrease is considered a success. That is such a minimal amount of the population that there are so many other variables that could attribute to this decline.

From a health educators standpoint it is obvious that programming needs to be put in place to deal with the societal and mental issues before the "war on drugs" can even get started. Very similar to the Netherlands and their use of harm reduction, they are giving their population the opportunity to better ones life rather then send them to prison, or more viciously the death penalty. This is somewhat similar to the Ithaca Drug Court and the programming that is going on within that community. Giving drug users a different life and a life that is filled with support and guidance so they can stay clean.

Singapore laws about drug trafficking are strict and inhumane but Singapore launched its first Drug Misuse Act in early 1970 which corresponds with the American Drug war history. United States is regarded as highly developed nation (though we are ranked as 37th in health care and Singapore as 6th) and many of its policies are undertaken by other countries. The drug war in America influenced many other developed country to act accordingly and Singapore was just one of them. Now it seems to me that United States has at least a treatment oriented lenient tendency towards drug users and handlers. The drug laws and policies might be very strict in Singapore but there are rehabilitation centers and halfway houses to support drug abusers to be socially acceptable and desirable after they finish their imprisonment ( These services are also offered as per their religious background and culture which is remarkable as spiritual strength and motivation is a key factor in maintaining sobriety.

Singapore drug laws aroused bitter emotions in many of us. The solution to the problems of drug use and handling is difficult but presenting the possible solutions than just criticizing would bring a lot more interest. If researchers and health educators successfully prove and advocate that drug abusers need treatment, support and rehabilitation rather than jail sentence or incarceration it will definitely bring positive changes in the policies in due course of time. Knowledge of the extent of problem is the first step towards advocacy and this blog was able to bring that spirit.

Another note about drug laws:

I've included a link (below) about medical marijuana and the subsequent negative consequences on Drug court and treatment seeking.

Since marijuana was legalized for medical use in California, offenders are less likely to seek treatment for marijuana. In CA drug courts, defendants are reported as seeing MM as a non-issue, since the use is so common and that getting medical marijuana is very, very easy. California drug laws are very liberal, and one can obtain a medical marijuana card for just about any medical conditions, including headaches.

In the bigger picture of the war on drugs, medical marijuana speaks directly to the inconsistent policies between states and the idea that marijuana is no longer an "enemy". The movie "Grass" provides a clear historical progression of propaganda and media campaigns created to manipulate the public into believing that marijuana makes you crazy, promiscuous, kills your brain cells, and causes violent and uncontrollable outbursts. From this perspective, state-sponsored medical marijuana appears to be one of the largest institutional back-pedals since the repeal of prohibition.

So here is the real issue: Does the decriminalization of marijuana support the war on drugs? From the perspective of Drug courts that are having increasing difficulty convincing offenders to stay marijuana fee, no. Nor does legalization support the villainization of pot.

There are no clear answers to these complex issues, but it does make one wonder what tactics doctors, treatment facilities, drug courts, and the government will use now that marijuana has undergone it's own rehabilitation.

This article really enlightened me to the stark differences there can be between different government systems. As someone who has never traveled outside of North America, I am unfamiliar with the laws and policies of other countries - made more evident to me after I read this article. In the U.S., the only crime resulting in the death penalty is murder itself, and even that is highly debatable and controversial. Thus, I am startled to discover that another country strictly maintains a punishment of death for drug possession, despite media and public uproar. I am curious to know what other crimes constitute the death penalty in Singapore, and also if any other countries have similar punishments for drug trafficking.

As a supporter of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, this article came as quite a shock to me. I know the drug laws in America well but I had no idea that there was such extremely insensible policies abroad. While the lives saved from drugs by the trafficking policy are definitely a good thing (just to be clear), I tend to agree more with the Dutch policies of harm reduction and think that drug use is a personal choice which the government needs to stay out of to a degree. Notice I say to a degree. The trafficking of drugs into Singapore, however, is very much that governments business. Having strict penalties for trafficking to avoid bringing drugs into the country in the first place is an ingenious tactic for keeping the country drug-free, but these laws go too far. If only every country had our constitution; mandatory searches and urinalyses without warrants are major breeches of privacy and human rights, especially when refusing them presumes guilt and the punishment is death! So insensible.

In my opinion, the death penalty is unnecessary. I will not even begin to comment on morality, it just seems that sensibly a government should not utilize a practice it so strictly prohibits; it is hypocritical. In certain US states, capital punishment (the highest punishment, death) is only available as a penalty for murder in the first degree, meaning that is the worst crime committable, which many would agree with. Essentially, this means that the government is committing the foulest of crimes! Throw that person away for life, keep them in solitary confinement, but break your own laws? That does not seem sensible. How can Singapore get away with instating death as a mandatory penalty for a lesser crime...?

This blog was worth reading. As soon as i saw the title I was immediately interested. Who knew governments are extremely different all around the world. Maybe I thought they were similar because I never traveled out of the U.S. It is very good to be kept informed about serious matters like this one.

This article was shocking to me because I wasn't aware of Singapore's death penalty just like everyone else who has commented. I feel like countries that use the death penalty for crimes like carrying drugs aren't really considering the fact that if someone wants to do something, they will find a way to do it. It's evident that people still are trafficking drugs there, because they've had to use the law on a thousand citizens in 2009. The government should look at examples like prohibition in the United States; when people are forbidden to do something they will go underground and do it anyway, just with more violence and danger. I don't support drug use at all but I think the Netherlands approach is wise because they recognize that people will do drugs regardless of the law and they don't want to have to kill citizens for their mistakes. I don't know how the citizens of Singapore feel about this topic but for me it seems far too extreme.

Singapore seems to be on the harsh side of things in terms of reprimanding its criminals. While drug trafficking is undeniably an offense to a country’s national security, capital punishment is excessive and – in most cases – ineffective. The purpose of the death penalty is to serve as a wagging finger to potential criminals. However, the logical comparison to the use of the death penalty in the U.S. shows that crime rates and number of executions appear to be virtually unrelated. This suggests that the severe punishment of drug offenders will be unlikely to dissuade individuals from trafficking, much less prevent the import of drugs into the country. Every country in the world has a drug market, regardless of size. This bears the comparison to the prohibition period in the United States, a wildly unsuccessful failure of a federal decision to ban a substance. The government of Singapore would be best advised to rethink its strategy in regards to drug policing and law enforcement on a broader spectrum.

Like most of the other speakers I find the idea of death penalty for drug possession quite scary. But it needs to be admitted that Singapore has the right to control its own laws. While i disagree with the methods and ideals of the law i can't condemn the country for setting up what seems be an effective means of drug deterrent. I believe that each country has the right to control drug use as it sees fit and there is no one right answer to drug use that will be logical and beneficial for the entire planet. I also find that contrasting Singapore's drug trade and laws with that of the US to be somewhat naive. The United States is a country with a population upwards of 300,000,000 with close to 10 million square miles of territory that is bordered on the north and south. Singapore has a population around 5 million and has 710 square km of land territory. Drug control on a national level is a much more feasible plan for Singapore, entry into a country of that size can and is much more restricted than that of the US. Americans will always want drugs, and as the risks stand now people will always be willing to supply them. In Singapore however the risks involved in selling drugs to the island nation may pose to great when compared to risk of death.

As a moral issue i again say each country is free to impose their own laws, and its not as if drug use is a guaranteed human right. Also their are numerous more important moral issues that plague other parts of the world and are certainly more deserving of attention.

A question i have about the laws is how deal with the host of new drugs that are emerging and becoming ever more popular, specifically drugs associated with clubbing such as MDMA or ecstasy. Many of Asia's economically successful countries have begun sprouting club scenes to cater to the young and wealthy of their country. Just as musical styles and sub-cultures of them (rave culture, etc) are shared across the oceans so will the dugs associated them. Will Singapore enact the same laws on these or will it try and exploit the economic possibilities behind a large club scene and legalize newer drugs?

How are you saving someone's life from drugs by killing them? This makes no sense to me. I think the death penalty is wrong in all situations. Killing is not solving the problem, it is almost ignoring it. I agree drugs are a problem, but dealing with them with violence is not the answer.

Though I feel that the death penalty and capital punishment are completely wrong, there are a few areas in which i feel that the threat would be useful, but none of them are drug trafficking. I would argue that political corruption, large corporations that ruin economies for greed, and people that dole out "bail out" money for bonuses and not the betterment of their companies may deserve the death penalty, as a threat, but not in practice.

I agree with the Dutch perspective on this situation in that people will always do drugs and should just be treated instead of imprisoned. Look at the American prohibition of alcohol. The only thing that came out of that was gangsters, higher crime rates, and social decline. With more understanding comes less crime and less death instead of ending lives. Death is never the answer.

After reading this article, I am absolutely appalled by the fact that drug trafficking carries a mandatory death penalty. Although I do not condone drug trafficking, I believe that it is heartless and insensitive to punish someone to death because they are illegally distributing drugs. Obviously people who take these recreational drugs are mentally ill and need to seek professional help. Killing all of them off will not solve anything. It is sad to say but drug use is prominent in most of the world and I believe that the only way to stabilize its effect on society is to use the approach known as "harm reduction" because "drug use will always happen, drug users should be treated not as criminals but as people with social or medical problems, and drug maintenance offers a safer and more beneficial overall model for society than prohibition".

I am shocked by intensity of this law in Singapore. I had absolutely no idea that it existed at all. I think that if I had heard it from simply a friend I would not have believed that it is true. The death penalty is still highly controversial here for even mass murder. The idea that it could be put into action due to drug possession is unthinkable to me. Now, I am not advocating for the rights of drug dealers or users, but I think that the death penalty is very extreme and entirely unnecessary. Plus, if people just know that they can't do something because it is illegal, then the policy hasn't changed their opinions or morals. What people need to do is educate the masses about the effects of drug use and dissuade them from using by convincing them that they don't want to based off their values. One could theoretically use media, including film, to get the point across that drugs are harmful and not worth the pain they cause. In the same way that Shanghai Triad warns against an obsession with power and ruthlessness, these movies could show the real consequences of drugs. Instead of blindly following a law, the people of Singapore could then really feel and believe that they don't want to use drugs.

This blog post was really eye opening and it made me start to consider a lot of things. First like many other people on this post said, I travel a lot. Although it has occurred to me to be weary of other countries laws I have never even considered what it would be like to be caught in a situation much like the Australian that was executed.
Second it is shocking to me that the amount of drugs it would take to be executed in Singapore, would get you very little jail time in the US. I am also wondering how the government is able to pay for all of those executions? I am assuming that they are very expensive and time consuming for a lot of people.
I know that this is supposed to act as a deterrent for drug-trafficking but I think it is a little extreme to have a mandatory death penalty.

I have never heard about this before, but the death penalty for drug trafficking is way too extreme. Drug dealers; sometimes use other passengers’ luggage as a way to bring drugs into other countries. I don’t know what the chance is of getting into this situation, but you can be used as a drug trafficker and you could get sentenced the death penalty for it. When my aunt traveled to Texas from Los Angeles, her friend’s suitcase was swapped with a suitcase full of Marijuana because she had the exact same suitcase. Fortunately, she was proven innocent, but if this had happened in Singapore, she would have probably been executed. Even though the law is to prevent the majority of people from being exposed to drugs, the death penalty should not be the punishment for drug trafficking. The government could do something to help drug addicts instead of executing them.

I thought this post was very interesting. The Singapore government took their narcotics policy in a completely different direction from other nations such as the Netherlands. Rather than legalizing most or all narcotics, Singapore decided to implement the death penalty. It is interesting to see both extremes in the world today and the consequences for both. Even though I do not believe a person should be put to death for drug use or trafficking, I do believe it is a deserving punishment for a murderer. I understand why such an extreme penalty was placed on the crime. If you do not want anyone to rob a bank you need to put a minimum penalty for someone who tries to commit the crime. If the punishment is sufficient, the likelihood of the crime being committed should diminish.
Yes Singapore did see a drop in drug related arrests by a factor of two percent in 2009, but such a low number shows that there is an underlying problem to the country’s drug use. Those who are being arrested are more likely to be on the lower rungs of the social ladder. In Wilkinson and Pickett’s The Spirit Level, evidence was put forward indicating that drug use is greater in less equal countries.
Clearly, the policy Singapore chose is not the right option. The number of drug related arrests has not slowed much. This means the use of drugs has socioeconomic or cultural roots in Singapore, and the death penalty is not going to deter the population from consumption.

` Singapore is among the most execution-happy places in the world. Each year nearly 1,000 people are executed for, what seems to the common sense of ethics and morality, the most minor and unfortunate offense there is…nonviolent drug possession. The severe penalties for drug offenses in countries such as Singapore, as well as China, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Iran not only contribute to violations of human rights but also prove to be an ineffective approach to dealing with the issues of drug abuse in society.
In contrast, countries in Europe and the Netherlands have adopted an approach to remedy the problems caused by drug use and distribution with a policy geared towards rehabilitation as opposed to criminalization and prohibition. By treating individuals afflicted with drug addiction as high-risk medical patients as opposed to criminals, harm reduction, as a policy, aims to focus its efforts on minimizing those risks and thus provides addicts and society at large a more effective means of safely combating issues such as the spread of disease, overdose prevention and incarceration. Programs such as the needle exchange, methadone therapy and the Hepatitis C project provide the resources necessary to that offer a real solution without stigma to the problems of drug addiction and does so while upholding the right to human dignity.

My friend lives in Singapore part time, and told me a long time ago about this law, and I was shocked that the Singaporean government would inflict that harsh of punishments for drug trafficking/use. What I didn't know was how strict they were about staying true to the law, despite the age and circumstance of the person in possession of drugs. I am from California, and like many other people have commented on in this thread, California has VERY loose drug laws, especially for a drug as minor as marijuana. 500 grams of marijuana is quite a lot for one person to be caught with, but I know people that have at some point or another had that much or more in their possession (when you live in the CA bay area, you don't have to do drugs to know a lot of people with marijuana,) and to think that in Singapore if they were caught with that much, they would be killed is ridiculous to me. Sure, I can understand having restrictions on how much a single person has on them, but death should not be a consequence for any amount of drug possession! Especially weed, because it is so much less invasive than any other drug mentioned in this thread.

I don't think Singapore's strategy to combat drug trafficking and usage is smart at all. All it does is create more fear, and doesn't help solve the problem. I'm not saying there shouldn't be consequences for certain amounts of drugs, but having the death penalty as a result of having any amounts of drugs is harsh beyond reasoning, and apparently is not as effective as it should be. When I read this part of the blog: "The Minister added, “Yong Vui Kong is young, but if we say ‘We let you go’, what is the signal were are sending?” I was disturbed at how easily they were willing to sentence a young man to death, and furthermore how apathetic he was to the situation. Sure, the Singaporean government's intentions are to keep Singapore clean of drugs; however, they aren't taking into account why people use drugs in the first place, and literally risk their lives when dealing and using them in Singapore. If the Singaporean government wants to help prevent the drug trafficking problem, they should start by questioning why people who use drugs become so dependent on them, and why they are willing to risk the death penalty being in possession of them. By Singapore not letting Yong Vui Kong go, they are sending a negative message to the world, that despite the fact that this man is young, he will not change, and he deserves death because of a problem he has with drugs--which happens to be a serious problem so many people in the world have. Why should he be sentenced to death? Because he was caught with heroin in a country that doesn't have any other justifiable solution other than killing him? It's just not fair, and there is no way the Singaporean government can justify their radical policy to the rest of the world.

Drug dependence is a bad habit to keep, so yes, I support Singapore methods on deterring drug trafficking and drug related crimes.

Wow. Singapore's policy is quite harsh. I absolutely disagree with the death penalty, especially when it has to do with drug trafficking or just drugs in general. I do like the approach of "harm reduction" in that drug use will always happen and that drug users should be treated as people with social or medical problems. Singapore is too idealist if it thinks it can completely remove drugs and drug use from the country. I feel like everyone punishes people who use or sell drugs and never looks at the structural factors that cause these problems such as capitalism which produces economic inequality that can cause depression or desire for wealth which leads to drugs use or selling drugs for money.

I agree with many of the other speakers that the death penalty seems severe; however, something else about this blog posting caught my attention. Right at the end it is said that many claim that the "war on drugs" in the U.S. is doing more harm than the actual drugs would. I feel that this idea is extremely important now, as the debate over the legalization of marijuana has been in the news a lot lately. For Singapore, I think the government needs to take a closer look at the policies they are enforcing, especially this death penalty for drug use and trafficking, and determine if continuing the policies really are saving more lives than if they were to continue the death penalty.

Its always good to keep in mind some of the laws of the place that you are traveling to. WOW.. the death penalty for drugs…. That is a big deal. That is more than zero tolerance, its about at a negative 5. I understand the point of trying to rid the country as a whole of drugs… However I doubt that there will ever be a day when that is possible.
It’s very interesting how Singapore is already at an extreme. In America for example we have been getting harder and harder on kids when it come to breaking crimes. People believe that getting tough works because its something tangible. If we have a higher number of people and kids going to jail then we are doing something right because we are getting rid of the bad ones. If we somehow fail, we will just get tougher that is the system…. In Singapore’s case if the situation gets worse I wonder what else they will do…

That would really suck if you accidentally had some drugs on you and you had to go to jail in Singapore. That would be a rough adjustment! This reminds me of the film Ganja Queen, an HBO documentary about an Australian woman who gets caught with 10lbs of marijuana in her luggage taking a flight from Australia to India. She faced the death penalty, with little investigation of where the marijuana had come from. Bali is a large drug trafficking country in the world. I like how this observational documentary presents the film in such a un filtered way, giving a direct insight to the woman behind bars.

The "mandatory" punishment of death for trafficking certain amounts of drugs in Singapore is absolutely ridiculous. The death penalty is not right on any grounds, but it is an automatic sentence, the punishment becomes even more unjust. I am grateful that the United States tends to operate on an "innocent until proven" policy.

The Netherlands' policy for drugs is something I believe the United States should learn from. Then the real problem, the addiction to the drug, could actually be handled properly. Some deterrents (LIKE AUTOMATIC DEATH, EVEN FOR NON-CITIZENS) are just too extreme.

There is still access to drugs in Singapore, as evidenced by the 1883 people who were arrested on drug charges in 2009. Minister K. Shanmugam: more lives are probably being lost due to the government's policy than by drug usage.

What other theoretical "wars" in the United States have increased violence due to that label?

This blog has made my knowledge of other cultures increase, and has provided me with valuable information for traveling abroad. It's interesting to see the government of Singapore's motives behind creating this law. If the death penalty of those who are drug trafficking allows for less violence and less deaths from drug trafficking then it seems like a reasonable punishment. However I think that every country can have their own laws permitted to them, but I don't think that they should have the right to kill international people who are there on visit. Somehow I think there should be an intervention before death penalties rise from foreigners abroad in Singapore.

This blog has made my knowledge of other cultures increase, and has provided me with valuable information for traveling abroad. It's interesting to see the government of Singapore's motives behind creating this law. If the death penalty of those who are drug trafficking allows for less violence and less deaths from drug trafficking then it seems like a reasonable punishment. However I think that every country can have their own laws permitted to them, but I don't think that they should have the right to kill international people who are there on visit. Somehow I think there should be an intervention before death penalties rise from foreigners abroad in Singapore.

This blog has made my knowledge of other cultures increase, and has provided me with valuable information for traveling abroad. It's interesting to see the government of Singapore's motives behind creating this law. If the death penalty of those who are drug trafficking allows for less violence and less deaths from drug trafficking then it seems like a reasonable punishment. However I think that every country can have their own laws permitted to them, but I don't think that they should have the right to kill international people who are there on visit. Somehow I think there should be an intervention before death penalties rise from foreigners abroad in Singapore.

This post really caught my eye and I am somewhat split on my stance. There must be, without a doubt, less drug trafficking because of this law, which in turn, leads to less drug related violence. However, such strict penalties seem to not fit the crime and using the claim that it reduces violence may be somewhat hypocritical. It is really interesting to see the cultural differences between the United States and Singapore in regards to drug trafficking. Singapore is taking a much more rigid stance, and by using such strict punishment, they are telling the traffickers that they mean business. I think this legislation will definitely reduce drug trafficking, but the cost may be too high.

I am a Singaporean, and like most other Singaporeans, I am in favor of the drug laws that have been in place since the 1970s.

To those who have a problem with our drug laws, it is pretty simple, it is our society, the drug laws in place have done their job, and we like to keep it that way.

Singaporeans are well-traveled. Most Singaporeans have traveled to American and Australian cities. No doubt, there is plenty things out there we could learn from still, i.e better social security etc, we also do not want to transplant the problems facing American cities due to firearm and drug usage.

Just take LA for instance. World class city for sure, but I've read all over the Internet on forums that the downside of it all is that u have to watch your back in LA all the time. Drive-by shootings, gang wars, drugs being sold to your kids in schools, need I say more? Americans being murdered in Mexico border towns, Americans being murdered in American inner-city areas over drugs, Americans dying daily in ER rooms due to drug overdoses, u need to decide which neighborhood is good/bad before living in it or even travelling to it. There are places in your own country most of u decent, suburban netizens wouldnt dare to even enter.

But let me tell u , we living here in Singapore dont worry about any of that. True we still do have those oddball drug users, but the number is kept so low, it doesnt bother the average citizen in the least. I am a teacher in a public school and I never had to deal with drug problems or the police in my school.

It is not just the government but the citizens too who are in favor of the death penalty on drugs. The reason as I mentioned is simple, those laws have worked to keep us safe from the drug menace. That safety is so prevalent here it can be taken for granted, but that safety is a luxury for most Americans. Most of you dont have it, and if u want it, u have to move to a pricier neighborhood or a gated community (only comparing the metropolises here cos Singapore is a big city. I know life in many smaller US towns is way different. )

I apologize if I come off too offensive. I am not trying to offend or criticize anyone. Im merely letting u guys know what we Singaporeans exactly feel and think about this issue whenever it surfaces.

And oh, some posters were talking about cultural differences. Yup, thats there for sure. One reason why the citizens are in favor of the harsh drug laws here is because we know our situations are way different. We are just one city-state with noone who would back us up if we fail. That is the reason why we take our safety and security very seriously.

If it ain't broke, y fix it?

And my own personal opinion before signing off. Just comparing the lives claimed by the War on Drugs launched by America and the number of people we hanged in total.

Well true enough u guys dont have the death penalty for drugs, but lets start by counting the dead bodies and decapitated heads that turned up in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez shall we? That many lives lost, I'd have expected your society to be free of drugs by now..or at least somewhere close to what we have.

But no. Just as Im sending this out, I'm sure another 2 people got shot somewhere for drugs in LA.

God Bless the USA

Drugs destroy lives, and Drug Traffickers are certainly advocates to this. Nothing can justify a person's actions when he decides to harm the lives of others and irresponsibly contribute to a plague that destroys families, people and homes.

There is no positive merit to Drug Trafficking whatsoever, and no justification for the ignorant who decide to partake in it for the sake of adrenaline and money. There is no excuse, if you want to be well off, do it through hard work. Not hurting other peoples lives.

It is for this reason that I agree with the Death Penalty here in Singapore. If you choose to hurt other people and their lives, be prepared to lose yours. There can be no stronger message against heartless drug traffickers.


Dear reader. I am a local Singaporean. I would like friends all over the world to know that an overwhelming majority of Singapore citizen support and will always support the death penalty for drug trafficking, murder and Kidnapping. Death penalty is a cruel punishment indeed. However, ever since our small country gain independence, our goverment had in mind, to build a safe, clean and healthy society with drugs, violence and murder totally wiped out. It does not only benefit us, It benefit tourists too. You can walk freely at 2 or 4am midnight everywhere in Singapore, you will be safe. You can do anything in Singapore as long as you do not break the law. As for cigeratte and alcohol, extremely high tax had been charge for it. Our goverment hates smokers and drinker and had in mind that in the near future, many extreme measures will be put in place to deter people from smoking and drinking. The Singapore Goverment is extremely determine to have a healthy society with the most vibrant economy in the world and one of the cleanest and safest country in the world. And you know what? When our goverment promised something. Something will happen. 46 years, same goverment, same style.

We had been very clear on this. Before anyone touch down to our changi airport, they were warn that drug trafficking amount to death penalty by hanging. Dear fellow humans around the world. Ours is but a small country. We have no natural resources and not enough land. We only have people. By good goverment, good economy policies, hardworking people, law abidding citizens, we have create a economic miricle and make a good living for ourselves. We are small, We cannot have drugs in our small country where our assets are only people people and people. This is a place to work, enjoy, live, eat, exercise,dance, party and swimming and etc etc. But no drugs.

You bring in Drugs, to the gallows you shall. We the citizen of singapore stand behind our goverment in support of the death penalty for drugs.

please also be reminded that mandatory death penalty for murder, kidnapping and public vandalism. There is no reason for doing all of the above but if you do it, prepare yourself for the gallows.

There are reasons for the hardcore stand on drugs and all the other death penalty related offences, you just have to do a bit of digging instead of just having a knee-jerk reaction.

In the 70s, the "Golden Triangle" was huge (wiki it, and no, it's not sex ed), and the drug lords there make the South American ones look like kids playing. They had ARMIES and sometimes, they even were the "government" for the area. Never mind policemen, you need tanks and bombers to enter their territory.

Go look up Khun Sa. Even your DEA tried to assasinate him.

The "War on Drugs" in the US was simply words on a newspaper. Over here in Asia, it was for real.

It is but right that they should implement this because there are several drug mules that are entering or passing through the country and are bringing in million-dollar worth of illegal drugs such as cocaine. The question is, does this include medical patients from the US who are travelling and carrying a <a href="">medical cannabis</a> for their medication?

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