Skip to content
Adam Minter

Killing Junkies Doesn't Work in Asia Either

The region is tilting away from executions and toward rehab.
Drug killings in the Philippines are bucking a trend.

Drug killings in the Philippines are bucking a trend.

Photographer: Ezra Acayan/NurPhoto/Getty Images

U.S. drug dealers, beware. According to a recent report in Axios, President Donald Trump admires the freewheeling and brutal manner in which some Asian governments handle drug offenders. "You know, the Chinese and Filipinos don't have a drug problem," a senior administration official paraphrased Trump as saying. "They just kill them."

In one sense, Trump is right. Over the last two decades, Asia has executed a disproportionate number of drug suspects compared with the rest of the world. In the Philippines alone, more than 12,000 people accused of using or dealing drugs have been killed over the last two years, often in extrajudicial executions. But, contrary to Trump's belief, the bloody toll from Asia's drug wars hasn't deterred addiction or prevented drug crimes. Instead, it's led many of the region's most prominent governments to rethink their approach.