SINGAPORE: A record amount of methamphetamine was seized in East Asia and Southeast Asia last year, according to a report released on Monday (Mar 11) by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
At least 116 tons of methamphetamine were seized in the region in 2018, a three-fold increase from the amount in 2013 and substantially more than the 82 tons seized in 2017.
The report covered 13 countries in East Asia and Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Japan and China.
Countries of the Mekong region, in particular, have seen significant increases in meth seizures, the report noted.
In Thailand alone, 515 million methamphetamine tablets were seized last year, 17 times the total amount of the drug seized a decade ago.
Street prices of meth are also going down, according to the report, partly due to a “significant increase” in production in Southeast Asia over the past year, leading to an oversupply of the drug in the region.
“Volumes of methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs originating from the Golden Triangle to Thailand have reached unprecedented levels”, said Niyom Termsrisuk, Secretary General of the Office of Narcotics Control Board of Thailand.
“Large amounts of synthetic drugs have been trafficked to neighbouring countries in the region, but also further.”
The UNODC report noted a “strong shift” in this region from opiates to methamphetamine.
With the exception of Vietnam, all 13 countries reported meth as their primary drug of concern in 2018.
“The shift to methamphetamine has affected even countries traditionally known to have a relatively large market for heroin, such as China and Malaysia,” said the report.
While it acknowledged that the increases in seizures of meth is due to improved law enforcement to some extent, the unprecedented amounts of methamphetamine seized in 2018 suggests an uninterrupted supply of the drug, said the report.
EMERGENCE OF NEW PSYCHOATIC SUBSTANCES
At the same time, the report warned that a wide range of new psychoactive substances (NPS) have also emerged in the region.
By 2018, a total of 434 NPS were detected in the region, including potent synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and its analogues. This presents a significant challenge for national authorities and people in the region, the report noted.
“National leadership and authorities are starting to come to terms with how profoundly synthetics are changing the drug market,” said UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific Jeremy Douglas, as he called on representatives to discuss the issue at the upcoming Mekong Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok.
“This is not business as usual, and it is past time to change the response,” he added.