Drainage is a major means of the conversion of tropical peat forests into agriculture. Accordingly, drained peat becomes a large source of carbon. However, the amount of carbon (C) loss from drained peats is not simply measured. The current C loss estimate is usually based on a single proxy of the groundwater table, spatially and temporarily dynamic. The relation between groundwater table and C emission is commonly not linear because of the complex natures of heterotrophic carbon emission. Peatland drainage or lowering groundwater table provides plenty of oxygen into the upper layer of peat above the water table, where microbial activity becomes active. Consequently, lowering the water table escalates subsidence that causes physical changes of organic matter (OM) and carbon emission due to microbial oxidation. This paper reviews peat bulk density (BD), total organic carbon (TOC) content, and subsidence rate of tropical peat forest and drained peat. Data of BD, TOC, and subsidence were derived from published and unpublished sources. We found that BD is generally higher in the top surface layer in drained peat than in the undrained peat. TOC values in both drained and undrained are lower in the top and higher in the bottom layer. To estimate carbon emission from the top layer (0–50 cm) in drained peats, we use BD value 0.12 to 0.15 g cm−3, TOC value of 50%, and a 60% conservatively oxidative correction factor. The average peat subsidence is 3.9 cm yr−1. The range of subsidence rate per year is between 2 and 6 cm, which results in estimated emission between 30 and 90 t CO2e ha−1 yr−1. This estimate is comparable to those of other studies and Tier 1 emission factor of the 2013 IPCC GHG Inventory on Wetlands. We argue that subsidence is a practical approach to estimate carbon emission from drained tropical peat is more applicable than the use of groundwater table.