The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Singapore is winning the war on drugs. Here’s how.

People pass the skyline of the central business district in Singapore on April 27, 2016.
People pass the skyline of the central business district in Singapore on April 27, 2016. (Edgar Su/Reuters)
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Regarding the March 2 news article “At opioids summit, Trump suggests executing dealers to help end crisis”:

Singapore is one of the few countries that have kept drug abuse under control. We take a clearheaded approach.

We invest significant efforts to prevent drug abuse. The government works closely with community groups, parents and teachers to educate youths and the general public on the harm and consequences of drug abuse. Drug abusers undergo compulsory rehabilitation programs to help them kick their drug habits. Upon release from rehabilitation centers, ex-abusers receive help to reintegrate into society. Tough laws and effective enforcement are a strong deterrent against drug sales and consumption. Stiff penalties punish those who disregard the law and deter others.

Singapore’s anti-drug strategy has worked well. Singapore has one of the lowest rates of drug abuse in the world: 30 opiates abusers per 100,000 people, compared with 600 in the United States. The U.S. opioid crisis has been declared a public-health emergency; 64,000 died from drug overdoses in the United States in 2016. In the 1990s, Singapore arrested more than 6,000 drug abusers annually. By 2016, this number had gone down to about 3,000.

Any suggestion that Singapore’s judicial process is “shrouded in secrecy and misinformation” is inaccurate. Cases are tried in open court and are reported. The death penalty is imposed only for the most serious offenses, including drug trafficking. Singapore does not take joy in the death penalty. But Singaporeans understand the need for it and strongly support it.

When expressing sympathy for drug traffickers, let us remember the immense harm drugs cause abusers and their families, especially children.

Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Washington

The writer is Singapore’s ambassador to the United States.