ASEAN: As safe as we think?

Manila policeRecent news of the mysterious death of British writer and movie producer Joseph Lang has sent chills through expat communities in the region. The acclaimed film maker made famous through the 2008 movie “Soi Cowboy,” a provocative portrayal of a relationship between a Thai girl and an older European man, was found dead outside a medical center in Ho Chi Minh City on June 28, Thanh Nien News reported.

For those who have spent time in ASEAN in particular, it is clear that – despite the spooky, monochromatic concrete cityscapes – societies here are much less prone to violence than those in the Americas or Africa.

However, there are pockets of Southeast Asia where that ominous shadow of worry still surfaces for all the right reasons. Below is a short compilation of some of the most and least violent places in ASEAN. (Statistics are from the latest records published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime [UNODC].)

Quezon City, Manila, Philippines

The largest city of Metro Manila, Quezon City is a vast patchwork of densely packed districts in the north that has gained an unfortunately sinister reputation. According to the UNODC, 5.3 homicides are recorded per 100,000 residents, making it the deadliest city in ASEAN. However, this right, though the highest, should also be considered through the largest lens of the Asia, where Mongolia’s capital Ulan Bataar is the deadliest city with double the homicide rate at 10.2.


If considering a larger sample than urban centers, Myanmar becomes the most dangerous in ASEAN. Myanmar’s high homicide rate of 10.2 can be largely attributed to ongoing communal violence and armed conflict, as well as a lack of official reporting by corrupt police officers, who can take the law into their own hands.

Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand’s capital Bangkok has the honour of being labeled ASEAN’s second more deadly city, with a homicide rate of 4. Although the Thais are considered by travel surveys as being one of the least rude and most accepting societies, there is a red line that can quickly plunge down into an underbelly of drugs, deceit and violence, still very active in Bangkok.

Singapore and Brunei

The city-state of Singapore and the tiny nation of Brunei are the safest in ASEAN, with homicide rates of 0.3 and 0.5, respectively. It can be observed that Singapore’s “fine city” image has a lot to do with its safety.