Singapore – The nabbing of two elderly Singaporeans among 136 suspects in the recent 11-day island-wide drug bust by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) shows just how many brazen drug criminals authorities have to deal with, even in a country globally-known for its strict anti-drug laws.
The CNB swoop covered the eight suburbs Balestier, Bukit Merah, Geylang, Hougang, Jurong, Serangoon, Tampines and Woodlands. Seized were about 3.8kg of heroin, 96g of Ice, 88g of cannabis, 83g of new psychoactive substance (NPSs), a gramme of cocaine, 56 Ecstasy tablets, five packets of LSDs and two Erimin-5 tablets.
The drugs are estimated to have a value of S$280,000. On top of that, the male elderly suspect was found with total of S$16,840 in cash.
Driving the point home, the bureau told the public that the amount of heroin seized would be enough to feed the addiction of 1,786 drug abusers for a week.
So, how did so many drug crime suspects even come to be in Singapore, where decades of zero-tolerance for drugs, strict border surveillance and severe punishments have kept a relatively firm check on the drug menace?
A factor might be new drug smuggling routes.
Trafficking narcotics into Singapore through customs is a common route, as seen by the 2017 and 2018 cases where two men were caught at the border Woodlands Checkpoint trying to slip in drugs weighing nearly six kilograms, and 4.67 kg, respectively.
Recent years, however, have seen the rise of a new and increasingly slick smuggling route — the peddling of drugs online.
According to a 2017 Channelnews Asia report on anti-drug strategy reviews announced in parliament, home affairs and law minister K Shanmugam spoke of online drug peddling that is further enabled by the anonymity of the Internet: “You can have anonymous transactions, you can have parcels coming in from any part in the world … that creates a challenge.”
Other MPs explained that virtual interactions between peddlers and buyers online as well as free drug samples offered online may make youths feel at ease to try, and get hooked on drugs. Statistics presented showed a 570 percent hike in just one year of the number of people in Singapore buying drugs and drug-related items online; 30 nabbed in 2015 and 201 in 2016.
Shanmugam also spoke of another recent menace — new drugs called new psychoactive substances (NPSs), where people take drugs and mix them with contaminants to lower the cost. In just two years prior, more than 3.5 kg and 4000 NPS tablets — marketed as legal, and safe — had been seized by the NCB.
Going by both CNB and Channelnews Asia, there has been a rise in drug abusers under the age of 30 in the last five years.
It is thus no surprise that Singapore authorities are stepping up curb measures, of which a vital solution would be in educating the young on the toxic and pernicious effects of illegal drugs.