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Crime in Asia Pacific - statistics & facts

As a region comprised of many different countries, it is not surprising that criminal justice systems and methods of policing vary greatly across the Asia Pacific region. Many countries across the region also have a history of social unrest which in some cases can appear to correlate with the level of crime. In 2019, Myanmar had a lower corruption index score. Given the country’s turbulent past including civil war, it can be inferred that socioeconomic factors may have a link with crime. As such, New Zealand, which has emerged with a strong economy and political system, had the best corruption index score. Drug abuse was also typically higher in regions that have experienced social unrest. East Asia and Southeast Asia displayed the highest number of drug users with Myanmar recording dramatic amounts of drug seizures. However, countries with more developed economies, jobs, and educational opportunities recorded lower drug abuse. Oceania had the lowest number of drug users than any other Asia Pacific region.

The Asia Pacific region exhibited high prison populations in 2020; China had by far the highest number of prisoners. Yet, given China’s vast population it is likely the country would have more prisoners, compared to Bhutan with a much smaller population and subsequently, the lowest number of prisoners. In this sense, it can prove difficult in determining the level of crime throughout the region. However, index scores measuring the adherence to the rule of law show New Zealand, Australia, and Singapore to be the countries that adhere the most to the law. Contrastingly, the likes of Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Cambodia all had much lower index scores.

Piracy has been a problem that has plagued the region for many years. The number of piracy and armed robbery incidents has fluctuated from the onset of 2010. With access to several great commercial seas, along with seas being difficult to police, pirates have sought opportunities and targeted ships known to have plenty of valuable cargo aboard. Alongside piracy, cargo theft of goods while still on land has seen a notable rise throughout the region. Other crimes committed across the region include intentional homicide and robbery. Although the intentional homicide rate has decreased in South Asia, the rate remained higher than that in East and Southeast Asia.

The unprecedented, outbreak of the coronavirus in December 2019 was seen to exacerbate crime, particularly hate crime, in certain countries across the region. In some cases, minority groups were blamed for the spread of the virus. This in turn induced xenophobia, racial hatred, and religious prejudice in certain areas throughout the region. There were incidences of breaches in human rights across the region, in which citizens were forced to return to work in contaminated surroundings. The impacts of COVID-19 have also led to an increase in theft around the region, especially cargo theft. Due to lockdown measures and the economic shutdown of many countries across the region, the supply chain of cargo was greatly disrupted. This resulted in a buildup on non-essential cargo in ports and warehouses and, thus, increased the chances of cargo theft.

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