BANGKOK ( Associated Press) — The number of methamphetamine pills confiscated in East and Southeast Asia exceeded one billion for the first time last year, highlighting the scale of illegal drug production and trafficking in the region and the challenges of fighting it. does, the United Nations said on Monday.
The 1.008 billion tablets – which would weigh about 91 tonnes – were part of a regional haul of about 172 tonnes of methamphetamine in all forms, and more than seven times the amount seized 10 years ago, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said in a statement. in the report.
“I think the region is literally swimming in methamphetamine,” said Jeremy Douglas, the UN agency’s Southeast Asia regional representative at a news conference in the Thai capital Bangkok, unveiling the report on “Synthetic Drugs in East and Southeast Asia.” Told.
“So to address this problem, East Asia will have to undergo a radical policy change or it will continue to grow,” Douglas said.
The drugs are largely consumed in Southeast Asia, but are exported to New Zealand and Australia, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan to East Asia, and increasingly to South Asia.
“The production and smuggling of methamphetamine again increased as supplies became highly concentrated in the Mekong (river region) and particularly in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar,” Douglas told the Associated Press in an email.
The increased production makes the drug cheaper and more accessible, posing greater risks to people and their communities, the report said. According to Douglas, when he first worked in the field in 2002-2007, a meth tablet cost five to six times more than it is now.
Methamphetamine is easy to make and has replaced opium and its derivative heroin to become the leading illicit drug for both use and export in Southeast Asia.
The Golden Triangle region, where the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet, was historically a major production area for opium and hosted many laboratories converting it to heroin. Decades of political instability have left Myanmar’s border areas largely chaotic, being exploited by drug producers and smugglers.
Douglas told a Monday news conference that there is a fundamental need to restart law enforcement efforts against the drug trade.
“Lots and lots of seizures are happening and there is no impact on the business. Organized crime just keeps cranking up the volume, Douglas said, replacing seizures with more product.
“The chemical situation is highly complex and no essential chemicals are being confiscated and they continue to flow unabated, mainly through Laos into (Myanmar’s) Shan State,” Douglas said. “We have massive money laundering operations going on in this area. At the end of the day we have fundamentally no effort to meet demand which is seemingly increasing and can continue to grow due to the price point of the drug being so cheap. ,
In view of the problem of limited governance and little attention given to this issue, the United Nations. Organized crime syndicates have the means to continue producing more meth and sell it to a growing population of youth with increased spending power, the agency said.
The political scenario has also acted to accelerate production.
In Myanmar, the military seized power from an elected government last year and is now engaged in an armed struggle against enemies of the military regime,
Drug production in Myanmar is often linked to armed ethnic minority groups who sometimes fight the government and each other.
“Each group denies involvement in drug production and trafficking and blames other groups, but the drug economy is arguably the largest part of the economy in most or many of Myanmar’s Shan and border regions and has a lot of intel. There are connecting groups for laboratories and shipments,” Douglas said.
The report called Laos one of the countries most affected by methamphetamines brought out of Myanmar. One of Asia’s biggest drug busts ever Made last October in Laos, police there seized more than 55.6 million methamphetamine pills in a single raid. State media reported that they also confiscated about 1,500 kilograms (3,300 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine.
The UN agency said it was concerned that criminal enterprises were targeting Cambodia as a drug production site. The report said a secret laboratory destroyed there last year was an industrial-scale facility for the production of ketamine and potentially other drugs.
Ketamine is used legitimately as an anesthetic, but its non-medical use and covert manufacturing were related to the United Nations agency.
Several countries tried to stop meth production by stopping the supply of precursors, usually ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which are known to be used in decongestant drugs. But the UN agency said some methamphetamine producers have clearly learned to make these precursors from non-controlled substances that can be traded freely and legally.