1 billion meth pills seized as Asia sees record surge in drugs


According to a new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released on May 30, meth production and trade is increasing in countries in the Lower Mekong region – Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar .

And that allows Asian drug cartels to flood the markets with multi-billion dollar synthetic narcotics even as the global economy continues to struggle with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The scale and scope of the methamphetamine and synthetic drug trade in East and Southeast Asia is staggering and yet it could continue to expand if the region does not change its approach and address the root causes that have allowed it to reach this point.” to reach,” said Jeremy Douglas, UNODC’s regional representative for Southeast Asia.

Organized crime groups have benefited from recent political instability, such as a military coup in Myanmar, which has left some border regions largely lawless and easy to exploit, Douglas said, while falling prices have been popular with consumers.

“The continued decline in the price of crystal methamphetamine in Southeast Asia, for example in Malaysia and Thailand, while maintaining high purity of the drug, means greater affordability and accessibility of high-purity drugs,” Douglas said.

“Organized crime [syndicates] have all the ingredients in place they need to grow the business, including territory to produce, access to chemicals, established trade routes and relationships to move products, and a massive population with purchasing power to target,” Douglas said .

“They look at the region and see potential and profit.”

Drug boom in a strict region

In Southeast Asia, a region of more than 680 million inhabitants in 11 countries, methamphetamine is a thriving multibillion-dollar trade that has displaced opium and its derivative heroin, becoming the dominant illicit drug for both use and export.

This is despite the region being infamous for having the world’s strictest drug laws, with some offenses punishable by death in Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam.

One of Asia’s biggest drug busts ever took place in Laos last October, when local police seized more than 55.6 million methamphetamine pills in a single raid.

Cambodia is also home to an increasing number of drug production sites, the UN agency noted.

“A clandestine lab dismantled there last year was an industrial-scale factory set up to produce ketamine and possibly other drugs,” it said.

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