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What is the law governing drugs offences in Malaysia?

The possession of drugs is seen as a serious offence in Malaysia. It is governed by the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 that regulates the import, export, manufacture, sale and use of opium, dangerous drugs and related materials.

What is the punishment like for one who is caught under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952?

Capital punishment is the highest punishment for the offence. Under section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act, those in possession of 15 gm or more heroin and morphine; 1,000 gm or more opium (raw or prepared); 200 gm or more cannabis; and 40 gm or more cocaine will receive the mandatory sentence of death by hanging. Punishment for lighter offences (those that are not considered drug trafficking) can range from imprisonment, rehabilitation to fines depending on the amount of drugs possessed and degree of offence.

Does the punishment only apply to Malaysian citizens?

No, anyone regardless of his/her nationality can be caught and punished if convicted. A number of foreigners have been executed in Malaysia: Kevin John Barlow and Brian Geoffrey Shergold Chambers were among the first to be sentenced to death in Malaysia for drug possession. On 8th of November 2013, three Uzbekistan nationals were also sentenced to death for trafficking more than 10kg of methamphetamine.

Which other countries practices strict rules on drugs possession?

The recent death sentences of the Bali 9 raised the world’s attention to the strict punishments for drug offences in Indonesia. As reported on The Fix, other scary places to be busted for drugs apart from Malaysia include China, Singapore, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia, which all punish drugs convicts with death sentences as the highest form of punishment.

Who has the power to stop a death sentence from being carried out?

In Malaysia, the Sultan possesses the right and power to commute and pardon sentences for death row prisoners. Recently, the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Ismail of Johor excused P.Chandran and 10 other inmates from the death penalty to life imprisonment.

What are the statistics of death sentencing in Malaysia?

According to a report by Roger Hood from University of Oxford, the number of executions carried out in Malaysia has declined evidently over the last decade. In 2011, it was reported that 441 people had been hanged since 1960, but since 2002, when four were hanged, executions have become increasingly rare. There were no more executions until 2006, when four people were executed for waging war against the King. In 2008, there was one execution for murder, two for drug-trafficking in 2009, and again one for murder in 2010.

There have been no executions since then, but there were 924 people on death row in Malaysia as of 2012.

Does this harsh punishment help to bring down the rate of drug offences in Malaysia?

There is not much information to indicate how successfully this punishment deters drug traffickers. However, it was revealed in Parliament on March 2012 by Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein that the mandatory death penalty has failed in stemming the drug trade in Malaysia. In fact, olice statistics for the arrests of drug dealers under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 for the past three years (2009 to 2011) have shown an increase. In 2009, 2,955 people were arrested under this section, whereas in 2010, 3,700 people were arrested.

Tyler Lim

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