MARLENA NIP WRITES – Drug trafficking charges loom over a French woman, an Indonesian maid, and three Malaysian men. About a pound of processed cannabis and 36 pot plants were allegedly confiscated from the quintet by police in the nation’s capital Sabah. If found guilty, the group face the death penalty, with zero room for argument.

Malaysia has tight and strictly enforced drug trafficking laws, with hundreds of people currently on death row for crossing them. Aside from cannabis, heroin trafficking has also been a recurring problem, putting many in line for capital punishment. Among those punished for smack were two Australian men, the first Westerners placed on Malaysia’s death row. Malaysia is largely Muslim, and in Islam drugs are strictly forbidden. As a result, the nation’s government wants nothing to do with such substances, regardless of who carries them.

In the West, use of the gallows for the death penalty is unheard of. Instead, an intravenous death serum is viewed as more humane. Malays may find hanging cheaper and simpler, but it’s certainly no less gruesome.  Further, when a drug trafficking issue is brought to light, the nation’s media does little to cover it. Conversely, Western media outlets typically hover over such cases, providing updates when available.

Additional differences between Malaysian and Western methods can be seen in popular culture. For instance, it’s common in the West to poke fun at marijuana and the culture around it through movies and television shows, such as Showtime’s Weeds. In contrast, Malaysia takes a far more reserved and serious position on the topic, assuming it’s brought up at all.

The cultural divide can be quite jarring when the sides are juxtaposed. If a Malaysian student were caught dealing marijuana they could easily find themselves in line to face the noose. Place the same student in the United States they would, depending on the state, likely face jail time and a hefty fine, which seems like nothing more than a firm slap on the wrist in comparison.