LIST: Age of criminal liability in some Asian countries

Aleta Nieva Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 23 2019 10:45 PM

MANILA – The Philippines may soon have a new law that would lower the age of criminal responsibility from the current 15 years old.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on second reading the bill seeking to lower the criminal responsibility of youth offenders to 12 years old. Lawmakers initially proposed to set it to 9 years old but amendments were made after a consensus was reached.

Here’s a look at how some of the Philippines neighbors in Asia are faring in terms of setting the minimum age of holding their juvenile offenders accountable for crimes committed. 


1. INDONESIA (from 8 to 12 years old)

Indonesia's law set the age of criminal responsibility to 8 years old. 
However, a new law on the Juvenile Justice System came to force in 2014 which increases the minimum age of trial from 8 to 12 years old. The new law also encourages use of restorative justice practices among others.


2. THAILAND (7 years old) 

In Thailand, criminal responsibility starts when the child is older than 7 years old. But while the child cannot be punished until he is over 14 years old, the court has the power to decide whether to release him to his parents or guardians under certain conditions or send him to a training school for a designated period, among others. 

[Source: Child Rights International Network (CRIN)]

3. MALAYSIA (10 years old)

The Penal Code set the age of criminal responsibility to 10 years old. But the Syariah Criminal Offences Act of 1997 states that children are held criminally responsible from the onset of puberty, while crimes under the Internal Security Act can be prosecuted regardless of age.

[Source: Child Rights International Network (CRIN)]

4. SINGAPORE (7 years old)

The Penal Code in Singapore set the age of criminal responsibility at 7 years old. Child offenders aged 16-17 are tried as adults.

[Source: Child Rights International Network (CRIN)]

5. VIETNAM (14 years old)

The current age for criminal responsibility in Vietnam is at 14. Child offenders aged 14 and older are criminally responsible for very serious crimes while children 16 or older are criminally liable for any offense.

[Source: Child Rights International Network (CRIN)]

6. CAMBODIA (14 years old)

While the age of criminal responsibility in Cambodia is at 14, child offenders are usually tried as adults and mixed with adults while in detention.

But this is what the new Juvenile Justice Law that was passed in 2016 hopes to address in treating children in conflict with the law.

[Source: UNICEF Cambodia]

7. MYANMAR, (7 years old)

Under Myanmar's Child Law, children above 7 to 12 years old may be held criminally responsible if they have "attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge the nature and consequences" of their conduct.

[Source: Child Rights International Network (CRIN)]

8. BRUNEI (7 years old)

Brunei's Penal code states that children 7 to 12 can be criminally responsible where they have attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge the nature and consequences of their actions at the time of the offense.

[Source: Child Rights International Network (CRIN)]

9. LAOS (15 years old)

Children who committed an offense cannot be held criminally liable if they are under the age of 15.

[Source: Child Rights International Network (CRIN)]

10. JAPAN (14 years old)

Children can be held responsible for a crime committed if they are 14 years old and above. It also sets the minimum age at 14 where the child shall be subjected to detention during process of investigation.

[Source: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan]

11. Hong Kong (10 years old)

The Juvenile Offenders Ordinance of Hong Kong states that no children under the age of 10 can be found guilty of a crime. A juvenile court shall have jurisdiction to hear and establish a charge against a child.

[Source: Hong Kong e-Legislation]

12. South Korea (14 years old)

The current age of criminal responsibility in South Korea is at 14. However, the government is seeking to lower this to 13 following rising violent incidents involving the youth.


13. China (14 to 16 years old)

Article 17 of the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China set the age of criminal responsibility at 16 years old. However, children who reached 14 and committed serious crimes such as homicide, rape, robbery, drug trafficking, arson, explosion or poisoning will be held criminally liable.

[Source: International Labour Organization]