27 Jul 2017

  1. The 38th Meeting of ASEAN Senior Officials on Drug Matters (ASOD) was held in Hanoi, Vietnam, from 25 to 26 July 2017. The meeting was opened by Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Public Security, Mr Le Quy Vuong, on 25 July. Singapore’s delegation at the 38th ASOD was led by Mr Ng Ser Song, Director, Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), and comprised representatives from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Central Narcotics Bureau and Singapore Prison Service.

  2. At a press conference held after the conclusion of the meeting, Director CNB Mr Ng shared with Vietnam media on CNB’s assessment on new drug trends, including the growing threat of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and online drug trafficking. He also shared with the media Singapore’s firm and comprehensive strategy of dealing with drugs, which includes upstream preventive drug education, tough laws and robust enforcement, and strong community partnerships on the rehabilitation and aftercare of drug offenders (please see Annex A for Director CNB Mr Ng’s statement).

Group photo of Heads of delegations at the 38th ASOD meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, 25 July 2017

Photo-1: Group photo of Heads of delegations at the 38th ASOD meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, 25 July 2017.

(Director CNB Mr Ng Ser Song is fourth from right-side of photo)

27 JULY 2017


“Every country faces unique drug situations and challenges. As anti-narcotic agencies, we try our best to address these challenges to the best of our capabilities.

Singapore adopts a firm stance against drugs. We keep the drug situation under control by tackling both drug demand and supply. Our comprehensive approach of upstream preventive drug education, tough laws and robust enforcement, and strong community partnerships on the rehabilitation and aftercare of drug offenders has worked well for us. We focus on harm prevention, and not on harm reduction. Singaporeans appreciate the protection this policy gives to our children and youth.

Due to Singapore’s location as a major transport hub, it increases the risk of drugs being smuggled into and through our borders. Hence, we need to ensure that our laws are tough and effective in deterring drug traffickers.

There has been calls of legalization in the global war against drugs. We have seen this being debated at international forums and have been keeping abreast of the arguments and reasons put forward by supporters of a softer approach to drugs. However, thus far, we are not convinced that these approaches such as legalization, is a viable solution.

There is a growing debate on legalising illicit drugs. Some of the reasons put forward have been that legalization will eliminate illicit markets and reduce the costs borne by criminal justice systems. However, it is a sweeping statement that legalization would resolve problems caused by drugs. There is no quick-fix solution in addressing the drug problem. In fact, what we need is a firm resolve and commitment of efforts and resources to implement a balanced, holistic and integrated strategy which targets both demand and supply.

Ultimately, when faced with arguments for softer approaches, we need to keep in mind that drugs are harmful and there are repercussions for both the individual, his family and society. We cannot allow the normalization of drug abuse to take root. This is why Singapore remains committed to ASEAN’s shared vision of a region free of drug abuse. As an ASEAN bloc, we are united and have come out strongly against drugs. This is evident in the joint ASEAN statement which was delivered at the 59th Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

Operationally, we have noticed the increased use of online drug trafficking. To address this challenge of online drug activities, we have adopted a three-pronged strategy. First, we collect upstream intelligence by monitoring open source reports and exchange information with our national and international counterparts. Second, we conduct downstream enforcement where we conduct joint operations with our Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to target parcels arriving from prevailing source countries. Third, we develop capabilities and partnerships with the relevant stakeholders such as postal companies, and work with them and ICA to enhance detection capabilities. The threat of online drug trafficking with likely continue to be a concern as our society gets increasingly digitized. We will continue to keep a close watch on the issue.

One of the key challenges we have faced in recent years is the emergence of NPS, which develop faster than the time taken to schedule them in local legislation. In some cases, this result in the substances being in circulation, causing harm, long before the processes to schedule the drugs are completed. In response, we have enhanced our legislation to control and prevent their proliferation. NPS can be temporarily listed in our law for 12 months, with the possibility of extension by another 12 months. Law enforcement agencies are empowered to seize these NPS whilst research and industry consultations take place to study the harmful effects of the substances and if there were possible legitimate uses. After a year, all temporarily-listed NPS would be re-classified as Class A controlled drugs if they were found to have no legitimate uses.

Addressing the drug problem is a shared responsibility. Cooperation amongst counter narcotics agencies in the region is paramount in our efforts to eradicate drugs.”