In a bid to strengthen its stand against illegal drugs, the Asean bloc has launched a 10-year plan to combat drug abuse in the region.
At the fifth Asean Ministerial Meeting on Drug Matters held in Singapore, the regional organisation officially adopted the Asean Work Plan on Securing Communities Against Illicit Drugs on Thursday. It was launched by Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and was attended by heads of delegations from Asean member countries.
Teo Chee Hean, who is also the Coordinating Minister for National Security, persuaded the leaders to be careful of what drugs they are legalising in their county and highlighted the need to take firm action against drug traffickers and abusers.
"As the global debate on drug matters intensifies, what we say as a region will matter," he said, according to Straits Times.
"By standing together and working towards a drug-free ASEAN, we have a better chance of protecting our citizens and families from the dangers of drugs," he added.
Teo, in his speech, gave the example of a children's hospital in Colorado, United States which has seen a doubling of marijuana poisoning cases among children after it was legalised in the country.
According to the news website, Teo urged fellow ASEAN countries push for a zero-tolerance approach to drug abuse.
"As the global debate on drug matters intensifies, what we say as a region will matter," he said.
The leader, according to the news portal, also specified three important areas where Asean needs to work hard to make the south-east a drug free zone. They included protecting young children from drugs and educating them about the negative effects of drugs, enforcing strict laws against drugs and syndicates and getting Asean members to work together to reduce the chances of misusing drugs.
Teo also identified the growing trend of buying drugs online as the biggest challenge. He reportedly cited the 2015 Global Drug Survey, which said one in 10 drug users had bought drugs online at least once. This is twice the number, as compared to those surveyed in 2013.
The existence of the Golden Triangle, one of Asia's two main opium-producing areas lined by Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, is another serious threat according to Teo. The area includes more than 22 per cent of the world's land used for opium poppy cultivation, Mr Teo said.
It is reported that the 10-year work plan against drugs will be reviewed in 2020 and 2024, to see the progress and ensure plans are up to date with the evolving nature of the drug problem. The take visiting ASEAN officials are also scheduled to take a tour of a local drug rehabilitation centre in Singapore.