Bomb threat on SIA flight by passenger shows harm from drug use: Shanmugam

A Singapore Airlines Airbus 350 plane (left) and an RSAF F16 fighter jet. (PHOTOS: Getty Images/MINDEF)
A Singapore Airlines Airbus 350 plane (left) and an RSAF F16 fighter jet. (PHOTOS: Getty Images, MINDEF)

SINGAPORE — A man who allegedly made a false bomb threat on a Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight from San Francisco is but one example of the harmful consequences of drug use, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Thursday (29 September).

La Andy Hien Duc, a 37-year-old American man, was charged in court on Thursday following his arrest a day earlier, after claiming that there was a bomb in a hand-carry bag on the SQ33 flight and assaulting a cabin crew member. The man's urine tested positive for controlled drugs.

Shanmugam, who in recent weeks had given interviews to foreign media on the death penalty in Singapore for drug trafficking, made the comments on Thursday at a conference by the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (Sana).

"Drugs harm the abusers, and also those around them. Drug habits strain family relationships, and create financial, psychological, and emotional difficulties for family members," he said.

Shanmugam cited the example of Gabriel Lien Goh, 25, who killed his mother and grandmother while high on the psychedelic drug lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in 2019. Goh was last week ordered to be detained indefinitely by the High Court.

"We don't see activists holding candlelight vigils for either the grandmother or mother. Their lives matter, too," Shanmugam said.

A recent study by the Singapore Prison Service found that one in five drug-abusing parents had a child who ended up either imprisoned, sent to a juvenile home, or put on probation, he noted.

"So, you see the cycle. One in five. And the other four, doesn’t mean that they have better lives either. It’s a broken life, and often, they are from poorer families, disadvantaged backgrounds."

But Shanmugam said the drug situation is not as serious in Singapore as in other countries because it is kept under control. "But you ask yourself whether the children in these situations deserve this."

Asian countries making drugs more accessible, coping with aftermath

Shanmugam also cited the recent experience of Thailand, where recreational use and growth of cannabis were legalised in June. While legal, recreational use of cannabis products there is discouraged.

"Within one week of decriminalisation, cannabis was everywhere: cookies, drinks, even toothpaste. Because it was a market that was predicted to be worth several billion dollars a year. Recreational use of cannabis has taken off," he said.

Following the change in law, Thailand has seen reports of teenagers hallucinating and harming themselves after smoking cannabis with at least one death, according to Shanmugam.

In another case there, a three-year-old girl who ate a cookie containing the drug had to hospitalised, he added.

Singapore's drug policies are guided by evidence, science, and common sense, he said, citing an Institute of Mental Health 2015 report that referred to research on serious health damage from cannabis use.

"If a doctor tells me, and doctors do say in Singapore, they need to use cannabis, we allow. If doctors prescribe it under certain conditions for a patient, we will approve – opium, cannabis. But that should be a choice of doctors, not pharma companies selling through shops," he added.

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