As passenger jets begin the descent toward Changi Airport, cabin loudspeakers warn of "severe penalties for drug offenses in Singapore."
To make sure the message gets across, landing cards that visitors must fill out warn in bold red letters: "Death For Drug Traffickers Under Singapore Law."Ironically, the Southeast Asian country's reputation for having one of the world's toughest anti-drug laws is tempting traffickers to use this as a transit point on their way to Europe.
Poh Geok Ek, director of the Central Narcotics Bureau, said traffickers know about the harsh penalties but still take the risk of stopping over here in the hope that authorities at their ultimate destination will be less strict in checking passengers arriving from Singapore.
Singapore's anti-drug laws stipulate a mandatory death sentence on conviction for trafficking in more than half an ounce of heroin or more than one ounce of morphine.
Acting Health Minister Yeo Cheow Tong said drug activities increased last year in many countries, including Singapore, because of bigger supplies from Southeast Asia's infamous "Golden Triangle" area linking Thailand, Burma and Laos.
To deter the entry of so-called "ant traffickers," those dealing in relatively small quantities of drugs, the government last year tightened security checks at the causeway linking Singapore to the Malaysian state of Johore Baru.
It also installed urine testing machines at all entry points into the city-state.
The tests can detect the use of heroin, morphine, opium, cocaine and cannabis and are carried out on foreigners and Singaporeans suspected of drug use or showing signs of nervousness or agitation.
Authorities have also tightened the issuing of passports to Singaporeans aged 20 to 30 because most drug addicts are from this age group.
Yeo told a public rally that 5,451 addicts were arrested in Singapore last year, 30 percent more than in 1987. "Of these, 23 percent were new addicts who had no previous drug records," he said.
But, Yeo said, the problem of drug abuse in Singapore is under control.
Singapore introduced capital punishment for drug trafficking in 1975 and since then 20 people, including 11 foreigners, have been hanged, the last in January 1986.
Another 16 have been sentenced to death and are in jail pending appeal.