SINGAPORE - Asean has to stand "firm and united" in the global fight against drugs, even as societies in Europe, South America and the United States are taking a more liberal approach, said Second Minister for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli.
"They have begun decriminalising or even legalising drug consumption and have framed the fight against drugs as a 'failed war'," he explained.
While these countries may have their reasons for doing so, such as to increase tax revenue or reduce prison overcrowding, he stressed that "Asean must stand firm, and stand together, to say that this approach is not for us".
Mr Masagos, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, was speaking to more than 100 delegates at opening of the 36th Asean Senior Officials' Meeting on Drug Matters on Monday morning.
Hosted by Singapore this year, the meeting allows officials from the 10Asean countries to to promote regional cooperation through discussions on the latest developments and key challenges in the drug situation in Southeast Asia .
In his speech, Mr Masagos praised regional efforts to tackle drug trafficking, such as through the Asean Airport Interdiction Task Froce and the Asean Narcotics Coordination Centre.
However, more work needs to be done, especially ahead of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem held next year, where countries may continue the push for more liberal drug policies, he cautioned.
"We cannot allow these countries to dominate the agenda. This harms the future of our nations, our youth and also runs counter to our common vision of a Drug-Free Asean," he added.
Noting the dynamic nature of drug threats, Deputy Secretary-General of Asean Political-Security Community V P Hirubalan also highlighted in his keynote address the need for delegates to explore innovative and novel methods to address these "continuing and serious" challenges facing the region.