SINGAPORE: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will discuss a new ten-year plan of collective action to secure the regional community against illicit drugs, said Minister of Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam on Wednesday (Oct 19).
Welcoming delegates to the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Drug Matters in Singapore, Mr Shanmugam described the meeting as "a major milestone for the ASEAN community in (its) fight against drugs".
"This work plan will set out our collective actions for the next ten years," said Mr Shanmugam on the discussions that will take place on Thursday. "It is a comprehensive work plan that will cover all aspects of our work, including prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, enforcement and cooperation among ASEAN member states."
He added that there will be a mid-term review of the plan in 2020 and a final review in 2024. "These reviews will check whether we are on track and what else we need to do. We have to continuously refine our approach," he said.
ASEAN MUST KEEP UP RESOLVE AGAINST DRUGS: SHANMUGAM
Mr Shanmugam said that the drug situation remains "challenging" both globally as well as in the region, and noted the emerging trend involving the abuse of more and newer psychoactive substances. He also drew attention to "the fact that increasingly younger and younger people" were getting attracted to drugs.
He noted that there has been international pressure for countries to relax their approach to drugs.
"Along the way, we have and will continue to face a lot of international pressure to take a more relaxed approach, to be 'more tolerant'. In many quarters, there have been calls to abandon this vision of a 'drug-free' society and move towards a 'drug-tolerant' one.
"I ask that we maintain our resolve in ASEAN and do what we know is the best for our people," said Mr Shanmugam, noting that the bloc's position is one of a zero-tolerance approach to drugs.
He noted that ASEAN spoke "as one united voice" at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs and again at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session earlier in the year. "Indonesia spoke up on behalf of all of us, and each of us spoke as well, including myself," he said.
"Our resolve against drugs has remained strong and we must keep this up."