BANGKOK — The number of methamphetamine tablets seized in East and Southeast Asia surpassed one billion for the first time last year, highlighting the scale of illicit drug production and trafficking in the region and challenges in combating it, the UN said on Monday.
The 1.008 billion tablets were part of a regional shipment of nearly 172 tonnes of methamphetamine in all forms and were seven times the amount seized a decade earlier, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said in a report.
The drugs are mostly used in Southeast Asia, but are also exported to New Zealand and Australia, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan in East Asia and increasingly to South Asia.
“Methamphetamine production and trafficking skyrocketed again as supply became heavily concentrated in the Mekong (river region) and particularly in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar,” Jeremy Douglas, the UN agency’s regional representative for Southeast Asia, said in an E -Mail to The Associated Press Interview.
The increased production makes the drug cheaper and more accessible, which poses greater risk to people and their communities, the report said.
Easy to manufacture, methamphetamine has supplanted opium and its derivative heroin to become the dominant illicit drug in Southeast Asia for both use and export.
The area of the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet, has historically been an important opium production area and home to many of the laboratories that converted it into heroin. Decades of political instability have left Myanmar’s border regions largely lawless to be exploited by drug producers and traffickers.
Given the problem of limited governance and little attention to the issue, the UN. said organized crime syndicates have the resources to continue producing more meth and selling it to a growing, young population with increased spending power.
The political landscape has also helped traffickers.
In Myanmar, the military took power from an elected government last year and is now waging armed struggle against the enemies of military rule. Drug production in Myanmar is often associated with armed ethnic minority groups, which sometimes fight against the government and against each other.
“Each group denies involvement in drug production and trafficking and points to other groups as responsible, but the drug economy is arguably the largest part of the economy in most or many parts of the Shan and border areas of Myanmar, and there are many groups that tie information together to labs and deliveries,” Douglas said.
The report also named Laos one of the countries hardest hit by methamphetamine trafficking from Myanmar. One of the largest drug arrests in Asia was carried out in Laos last October, when police there seized more than 55.6 million methamphetamine pills in a single raid. They also seized 65 bags of crystal methamphetamine, also known as ice, state media reported.
The UN agency said it was concerned that criminal companies were targeting Cambodia as a drug manufacturing base. A secret lab dismantled there last year was an industrial-scale facility set up to manufacture ketamine and possibly other drugs, the report said.
Ketamine is legitimately used as an anesthetic, but its non-medical use and clandestine manufacture has raised concerns for the UN agency.
Many nations attempted to halt meth production by stifling supplies of precursors, usually ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, best known for their use in decongestants. But the UN agency said some methamphetamine producers have clearly learned to manufacture these precursors from uncontrolled substances that can be traded freely and legally.
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https://www.local10.com/news/2022/05/30/1b-meth-pills-east-se-asia-drug-industry-hits-ominous-peak/ The pharmaceutical industry in East-Southeast Asia reaches an ominous peak