MFA reminds Singaporeans to behave overseas following string of recent arrests

Singaporean national Desmond Goh Thiam Ann who was arrested for having drugs in his possession in Bali.
Singaporean national Desmond Goh Thiam Ann who was arrested for having drugs in his possession in Bali.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Behave yourself when you are overseas: That is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' (MFA's) reminder to Singaporeans following a string of arrests of citizens abroad.

MFA reminded Singaporeans to respect and abide by local laws and regulations when they go abroad, in a travel note put up on its website on Wednesday (Oct 19).

This is the first such reminder by the ministry.

There are concerns as, in recent months, Singaporeans have been arrested overseas for immigration and drug-related offences. MFA did not provide any figures.

In the note, MFA said that violation of foreign laws could lead to immediate arrests and detentions and, in some countries, the judicial process could take months. Singaporeans convicted of offences overseas could face heavy fines and/or long prison sentences, and in the case of drug-related offences, even capital punishment.

MFA added that it will render appropriate consular assistance to Singaporeans who are arrested and detained overseas. This includes notifying their next-of-kin.

"However, MFA cannot intervene in the legitimate law enforcement and judicial workings of another country," it said, adding that Singaporeans should exercise due care and personal responsibility when travelling overseas.

The reminder follows a string of recent high profile arrests of Singaporeans overseas.

In August, a Singaporean woman and her two teenage children were detained at a Johor Baru checkpoint after she allegedly made a vulgar hand gesture at a Malaysian immigration officer. She also allegedly shouted vulgarities while pressing the car horn repeatedly.

In September, a Singaporean man was nabbed for drug trafficking in Bali, Indonesia, after he picked up two packages at a post office that contained crystal meth and cocaine. He claimed he did not know what was in the packages and was collecting them on behalf of a friend.

There has also been an increase in the number of Singaporeans being charged for seemingly trivial offences while overseas, The Straits Times understands.

This includes a case of a man who grabbed the hand of an immigration officer, an offence under Malaysian laws. The man was later charged with obstructing the officer from performing his duty. Others were detained for using their mobile phones and wearing headphones at immigration checkpoints, and refusing to cooperate with officers.