Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Malaysia proposes softening drug laws

Malaysia proposes softening drug laws

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Malaysia has tough anti-drugs laws -- those caught with relatively small quantities may be charged with drug-trafficking and face the death penalty. AFP

Malaysia proposes softening drug laws

Malaysia has proposed removing criminal penalties for possession and use of drugs in small amounts, a move medical groups said will help addicts break a “cycle of imprisonment and poverty”.

The Southeast Asian country currently has tough anti-drugs laws – those caught with relatively small quantities of cannabis, heroin and cocaine may be charged with drug-trafficking and face the death penalty.

If narcotics are decriminalised, it would be a rare step in a region where many governments hand down harsh punishments for drug-related crimes.

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad announced the government was set to introduce the “significant game-changer policy” of decriminalising drugs.

The move is a crucial step “towards achieving a rational drug policy that puts science and public health before punishment and incarceration,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

“An addict shall be treated as a patient [not as a criminal], whose addiction is a disease we would like to cure.”

He insisted it did not mean that Malaysia was seeking to legalise drugs, and trafficking will remain a crime.

The policy is in the early stages and the minister did not give further details.

The announcement was welcomed by dozens of NGOs and medical groups, including the Malaysian Medical Association and the Academy of Medicine Malaysia, who backed the “public health approach” to drug use.

“Criminalisation makes many drug users afraid to ask for medical help for fear of punishment and a criminal record,” they said in a joint statement, adding the current policy “creates a cycle of imprisonment and poverty” for addicts.

Last week, Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that most of the 70,000 prisoners in Malaysia were drug addicts.

It remains to be seen whether the government, a reformist alliance that took power last year, can push through such a controversial change in a country where many are staunchly against drugs.

The government announced with great fanfare last year that it would abolish capital punishment entirely. But after a backlash, authorities dropped that plan and now say only the mandatory death penalty will be axed.

MOST VIEWED

  • Over 100 Chinese nationals to be deported for online scam

    The Ministry of Interior is planning to deport 128 Chinese nationals after they were arrested in Preah Sihanouk province on Wednesday for their alleged involvement in an online money extortion scam. Y Sokhy, the head of the Department of Counter-terrorism and Transnational Crime, told The Post

  • LPG gas explosion injures 13 people, including foreigners, in Siem Reap

    An explosion on Wednesday at a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) car and tuk-tuk refuelling station in Siem Reap city has left 13 people, including an American and a Briton, suffering burns. The seven most severely burned, including a provincial police officer, were sent to a Thai

  • The French mother navigating the capital in her own personal tuk-tuk

    French woman Cecile Dahome gracefully manoeuvres her tuk-tuk through the manic streets of Phnom Penh with the precision of a Japanese katana before a herd of motorcyclists, attempting to perform illegal U-turns, cuts her off. The riders, like baby ducklings following their mother’s tracks,

  • More than 800 people test positive for HIV in 2018

    The National Aids Authority (NAA) said more than 800 people tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) last year, joining over 76,000 others aged between 15 and 49 in the Kingdom already infected with the virus. The spread of HIV/AIDS in the Kingdom is showing few signs of