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

  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Kingdom eyes India FTA, China deal set for August

    Cambodia is studying the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with India to open a new market with the second-largest regional economy. This comes as an FTA with China is scheduled to be signed next month while similar negotiations with South Korea

  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The

  • Preah Vihear court drops charges against villagers

    The Preah Vihear Provincial Court has dropped all charges against eight ethnic Kuoy villagers who were in a land dispute with the Hengfu Group Sugar Industry Co Ltd since 2014. Wednesday’s decision was made by the judge who tried the case on June 10. The eight

  • Gov’t to boost Siem Reap tourism

    The Ministry of Tourism released the results of an inter-ministerial committee meeting concerning Siem Reap province’s Tourism Development Master Plan for 2020-2035 on Wednesday, revealing the government’s plan to improve the overall tourist landscape there. The meeting was attended by Minister of Tourism

  • Residents ordered to remove structures on Phnom Penh’s canal

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng has ordered authorities to act against the perpetrators who built houses along the Luo 5 canal in Meanchey district. The municipal administration plans to create a committee to solve the matter. The order was given on Wednesday while Sreng led

  • ‘On the offensive’: Cambodia to load up on loans to stimulate economy

    As the dust settles on the economy, Cambodia comes to grips with what needs to be done to turn the economy around, starting with a big shopping list for credit ‘We are going on the offensive,” Vongsey Vissoth, Ministry of Economy and Finance permanent secretary

  • Eighty replacement peacekeepers set for Mali mission despite Covid

    Eighty Cambodian blue helmet soldiers who completed the peacekeeping mission under the UN umbrella in Mali will return to Cambodia on Friday, said the Centre for Peacekeeping Forces spokeswoman Kosal Malida. “To protect their families and communities from the Covid-19 pandemic, the 80 are required to

  • Government set to make up for cancelled April holiday

    The government is set to make up for a five-day Khmer New Year holiday late this month or early next month. The holiday was earlier cancelled due to the onset of Covid-19. The announcement is expected on Friday as the government is studying a range

  • Families told to register for cash handouts

    The government has called on poor families to apply to commune authorities for evaluation to receive financial support during the Covid-19 crisis. A $300 million budget has been planned for implementation within a year. Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Vongsey Visoth said this