Exclusive: All About Safety And Criminality In Southeast Asia

Water puppets

Asia and Southeast Asia are among the safest places to live in the world according to most surveys and studies. UNESCAP (UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) confirms that homicide rates in the countries of Asia and the Pacific are among the lowest in the world and well below the global average. The homicide rate in the Asia-Pacific region was 3 per 100,000 people in 2012, less than half the global average of 6 per 100,000 people according to UNESCAP based on data collected by UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).

Countries of Asia and the Pacific have some of the lowest homicide rates in the world, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore typically have homicide rates below 1 per 100,000 people.


Only of concern –and this is the bad surprise of this report- is the fast growing homicide rate of Myanmar which now comes at 15.2 per 100,000 people. It is around 75 times greater than the rate of 0.2 per 100,000 people in Singapore and twice as much as the Philippines which has the second highest rate of homicide in Southeast Asia at 8.8 per 100,000 people.
Homicide rates in Asia and the Pacific may be some of the lowest in the world, but the population and rate of people held in prison are amongst the highest according to UNECAP. This of course might explain the low homicide rate.

However, when asked about their perception of safety, answers differ a lot. Numbeo website collects data based on surveys from visitors of the website. Questions follow similar patterns of many similar scientific and government surveys. Cleaned from potential spam, Numbeo crime rate gives an instant perception –rather empirical- but which reflects the level of safety comfort of individuals. Crime levels lower than 20 are considered as very low, crime levels between 20 and 40 as being low, crime levels between 40 and 60 as being moderate, crime levels between 60 and 80 as being high and finally crime levels higher than 80 as being very high.

Safety index is, on the other way, quite opposite of crime index. If the city has a high safety index, it is considered very safe.
Malaysian and Filipino cities top the crime index – reflecting what can be effectively perceived by some visitors when travelling to both countries- especially to large cities. Once more, it is all about an empirical feeling of traveller rather than a scientific approach to the reality. For example, it happens that the Philippines’ homicide rate of 8.8 for 100,000 in 2012 is far below homicide rates for Mexico (21.5/100,000), Brazil (26.5), South Africa (30.7) and Honduras, which detains the world record of 91 homicides per 100,000 people.

However, looking at UNESCAP data, Malaysia shows the highest case of robbery –albeit the latest provided data is getting back to 2006. They were controversies in Malaysia about crime rates in recent years with many observers doubting the veracity of numbers provided by the government.

According to UNODC, crime, the application of the rule of law and the strength of the criminal justice system have a profound impact not only on the victims of crime and injustice but also on the economic and social development of a society as a whole. High crime rates and a weak or ineffective criminal justice system hamper economic development and reduce both the quality of life and the confidence that people need in order to invest in their neighbourhoods and businesses.