Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

In Asia, No Hope in Dope




US socialite Paris Hilton (R) leaves Narita international airport in Narita, suburban Tokyo on September 22, 2010 after she was denied entry to the country over a conviction for cocaine possession. (Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images)

US socialite Paris Hilton (R) leaves Narita international airport in Narita, suburban Tokyo on September 22, 2010 after she was denied entry to the country over a conviction for cocaine possession. (Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images)

Here are two things not to do in Japan: Leave your shoes on when you enter a home, and show up at Narita Airport's immigration desk a day after pleading guilty to cocaine charges.

Paris Hilton did the latter before she had a chance to the do the former.

The socialite was arrested last month in Las Vegas for possession of drugs. After initially denying any wrongdoing, she finally fessed up to a judge and then jumped on a private jet bound for Japan to promote her fashion line with her sister, Nickie. But instead of stamping her passport, unimpressed Tokyo immigration officers questioned her for six hours and ordered her to fly back to the States. As she would say: That's not hot.

She's not the first celeb to fall foul of Japan's tough anti-drug stance. Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney was jailed for marijuana possession when he arrived in Tokyo in 1979 and was locked up for 10 days.

While the perils of Paris and Paul amount to little more than showbiz trivia, they do highlight vastly different attitudes in the East and West toward drug crimes.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim democracy, sometimes sentences convicted drug traffickers to death. A group of young Australians, known as the Bali 9, was arrested for heroin trafficking in 2005. Australian police tipped off their Indonesian counterparts. They were caught with packets of the drug strapped to their bodies as they waited to catch a flight to Sydney.

Six are now serving long prison terms while three sit on death row hoping Indonesia's legal system or its President Bambang Yudhoyono will grant them clemency. Had they made their flight and been arrested instead in Australia, they probably would have gotten little more than 10 years.  

Sometimes, not even the courts are involved. In Thailand, between February and May 2003, some 2,275 suspected drug offenders were shot dead in apparent extrajudicial executions.

The war on drugs is one of today's most important global issues. But who is right? East or West? Or is there another way?

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