Poverty and neglect driving kids in Malaysia to drugs

KUALA LUMPUR - They were poor, their parents had divorced and the eldest son, a 16-year-old, found himself as head of a household which included his two younger siblings.

Money was hard to come by. To make ends meet, the eldest got all three of them into the drug business.

Bukit Aman Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department director Comm Datuk Seri Mohd Mokhtar Mohd Shariff said the case, which occurred last year, involved the three boys aged between 13 and 16, who came from a broken family.

"They were arrested in Miri, Sarawak, on Oct 7 barely months after starting their 'venture'.

"It is shocking but this shows the drug menace must be fought at all cost as our youth are resorting to this despicable activity," he said, adding that the trio tested negative for drugs despite being small-time pushers.

Comm Mohd Mokhtar also cited another case in Kota Baru where the youngest drug offender was caught on Aug 20 last year.

"The 11-year-old boy was caught at the back of his house after some suspicious activity.

"He tested positive for methamphetamine. The investigations for both cases are currently ongoing," he said.

Comm Mohd Mokhtar said stimulant drugs such as Ecstasy, Yaba pills, heroine and marijuana were "popular" among youths.

"These drugs are cheaper compared with high-end drugs such as syabu or ice."

He called on every segment of the community to play their part in combating the drug menace.

"The best place to start spreading awareness of the dangers of drugs is at home. In this matter, the best school is home.

"We have to re-look the roles that family, peers, schools and NGOs can play in keeping drugs away from the masses, especially the young ones," he said.

The war on drugs should be a shared responsibility, added Comm Mohd Mokhtar.

"The police are overworked, don't always blame the police. All of us have a part to play," he said.

More kids pushing drugs

The number of teens caught for drug peddling and abuse is getting alarmingly high, with 7,412 teens arrested last year, of which 89 were only 13 years old.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg, says Bukit Aman Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department director Comm Datuk Seri Mohd Mokhtar Mohd Shariff.

"There are many more unrecorded cases," he said. "In 2014, 4 per cent of those arrested were still in school while last year, it was 5 per cent."

Comm Mohd Mokhtar cited peer pressure, exposure, neglect and lack of parental guidance as reasons why some youth were drawn to drugs at such a young age.

"Most of them also do drugs for fun, the lifestyle or when they're depressed," he said.

"The highest arrests of youths below 18 in recent years would be in 2013 and 2014. In 2013, we arrested 8,376 teens while 7,915 were arrested the following year.

"Although there is a decrease by 2.8 per cent, it is still alarming," he said.

While it is a serious issue, Comm Mohd Mokhtar said statistics showed a downward trend with a total number of cases last year dropping by 580.

However, the number of 13-year-olds arrested for drug-related offences went up from 76 to 89.

"Proactive measures must be put in place to curb this problem. These children usually come from broken families and lack moral or religious education. Some also have social problems," he said.

Although police do not provide counselling, Comm Mohd Mokhtar said they were working closely with the Education Ministry by providing details of arrested students.

"We are also active in organising awareness campaigns in primary and secondary schools by placing liaison officers schools to monitor problems faced by students," he said.

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