BACK And The Dangers of Doing Drugs in Singapore.
Dangerous Powder (© unknown)
Part of my Vietnam War/backpacker crossover novel BACK is set in Singapore, which I chose partly because of its strict anti-drugs laws, which then sets the scene for events later in the novel as the plot unfolds in the dark, Vietnam war-ravaged jungles of Asia.
I think Singapore is a fabulous place, and I always enjoy my visits there, but it’s one of the last places on earth anyone should be caught carrying or using drugs.
Recently a heroin courier became the first person NOT to be put to death for trafficking in Singapore, following legal reforms which now allow life imprisonment for drug traffickers if they assist the authorities in disrupting the activities of other traffickers.
The guy in this case had 72 grammes of heroin and was sentenced to life plus 24 lashes of the cane, a rattan implement that apparently hurts like hell (see photo below). A second trafficker in the same case wasn’t so lucky. He was still hanged.
Under the old law, anyone caught with more than 15 grammes of heroin was automatically executed.
Even cannabis attracts dire sentencing. Recently a Singaporean was sentenced to eight years in jail and five lashes of the cane for being caught with 0.31 grammes of cannabis; but there are many cases each year in Singapore of people receiving long prison sentences and many lashes of the cane for being in possession of small amounts of personal-use cannabis.
These sentences are popular in Singapore, and the authorities believe that such harsh sentencing actually reduces drugs crime and other crime for that matter.
But for harsh sentencing to be a deterrent, you have to have an competent, professional, well-paid and uncorrupt police force, and efficient courts staffed by judges that are also untainted by the stench of corruption, and it is THIS that makes Singapore truly unique among the bent legal systems of most other Asian countries.
In most other countries, many in authority actually connive in, or are looking the other way while quietly pocketing their share of the proceeds of, drug cultivation, transport and sale. Especially in the lawless, dangerous, drug-growing border regions of Asia, where BACK is set.
The pleasant surroundings of Singapore also provide a contrast in my novel, before the backpackers head off on their gruelling, ill-fated trek into the Laotian jungle, looking for something that was left behind from the Vietnam War.
For POWs left behind in Laos, see also:
© Peter Alan Lloyd
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