PETALING JAYA - Sabahan Yong Vui Kong may have escaped the gallows in Singapore, but Malaysians in his shoes caught as drug mules in other countries may not be so lucky.
Indonesia and China, where 47 Malaysians were caught in 2011, impose the death penalty for drug trafficking.
According to Bukit Aman, more than 190 Malaysians have been arrested overseas for being drug mules since 2011. Federal Narcotics Crime Investigation Department (NCID) director Comm Datuk Noor Rashid Ibrahim said the number of Malaysians caught as drug mules overseas averaged 50 each year.
"In 2011 alone, 80 Malaysians were caught. Of the total, 31 were arrested in Indonesia, 16 in China and 10 in New Zealand," he said, adding that the number dropped to 59 last year due to increased enforcement by police in co-operation with their foreign counterparts.
Comm Noor Rashid said local drug mules were now focusing on Singapore where 32 Malaysians have been caught, the highest number, followed by 11 arrests in Indonesia and seven each in Australia and India.
"The syndicate will often change their market based on the enforcement efforts of the respective countries," he explained.
Comm Noor Rashid said that so far this year, 57 arrests had been made with Singapore accounting for 21 of the suspects. He said drug syndicates often targeted Malaysians who were desperate, including debt-ridden and single mothers.
"Last year, a single mother who was five months pregnant, was caught in Melbourne with heroin. The woman, who has four children, had swallowed 34 small caches of heroin,'' he added.
He said another case involved a Malaysian commercial airline pilot who was arrested in Sydney last year with syabu.
Lately, he said the syndicates were targeting honeymooners, with a Sabah couple being arrested in Taiwan for smuggling 6kg of heroin.
"The syndicates are adapting, and so are we," he said.
On Thursday, Vui Kong's death sentence was commuted by the Singapore High Court due to amendments to the law. He was jailed for life and ordered to be given 15 strokes of the rotan.
Vui Kong has been in death row since 2009 for trafficking in 47 grams of diamorphine in 2007, which is a capital offence under Singapore's Misuse of Drugs Act.