Be firm in war on drugs, Asean told

Asean countries must continue to take a hard stance against drugs, even as societies in Europe, South America and the United States take a more liberal approach, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said yesterday .

"They have begun decriminalising or even legalising drug consumption and have framed the fight against drugs as a 'failed war'," he told more than 100 delegates at the opening of the 36th Asean Senior Officials' Meeting on Drug Matters.

While these countries may have their reasons for doing so, such as to increase tax revenue or reduce prison overcrowding, he asked for the region to "stand together to say that this approach is not for us".

"It reaffirms our commitment to give our children the right to live and thrive in a drug-free environment and sends a strong message to international drug syndicates that Asean will work together to disrupt their illicit activities," he said.

Hosted by Singapore this year, the meeting allows officials from the 10 Asean nations to promote regional cooperation through discussions on key challenges in the drug situation in South-east Asia.

In his speech, Mr Masagos praised regional efforts to tackle drug trafficking, such as through the Asean Airport Interdiction Task Force and the Asean Narcotics Coordination Centre.

But more work remains to be done, especially ahead of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem next year, where countries may continue the push for more liberal drug policies, he cautioned.

"This harms the future of our nations, our youth and runs counter to our vision of a Drug- Free Asean," said Mr Masagos, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

In his keynote address, Deputy Secretary-General of Asean Political-Security Community V.P. Hirubalan highlighted the need to explore novel methods in addressing these "continuing and serious" challenges.

Singapore is also attending the Regional Conference on Enhancing Cooperation on Border Management in Asean held in Bangkok this week.

The conference will discuss emerging crime trends such as drug smuggling and trafficking.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2015, with the headline 'Be firm in war on drugs, Asean told'. Print Edition | Subscribe