UN drug agency warns no letup in meth trade from Asian Golden Triangle

BANGKOK (AP) – The huge trade in methamphetamine and other illegal drugs from a small corner of Southeast Asia shows no signs of slowing down, the United Nations Office on Drugs warned on Friday. and crime.

“Large volumes of methamphetamine continue to be produced and trafficked into and from the region while production of ketamine and other synthetic drugs has expanded,” said the agency’s 2023 report, Synthetic Drugs in East. and Southeast Asia.

The lion’s share of methamphetamine, in the form of tablets and crystal meth, comes from the region known as the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet. Opium and heroin production flourished there, mainly due to the lawlessness around Shan State in eastern Myanmar. The region, largely made up of jungle, remains the domain of various ethnic minority militias, some of which are partners in the drug trade.

“Methamphetamine continues to be the most widely abused drug in East and Southeast Asia and this abuse has increased over the past decade,” the report said.

It is also easier to manufacture on an industrial scale than the labor-intensive cultivation of opium, from which heroin is derived. The drug is then distributed by land, sea and air throughout Asia and the Pacific.

The report says that the control that major organized crime groups have over the territory “has enabled them to massively increase and diversify the supply for the purposes of market expansion and dominance.”

“The most powerful regional trafficking networks are able to operate with a high degree of certainty that they can and will not be stopped, and they are able to dictate market terms and conditions accordingly,” he said. he declares.

There have been record methamphetamine seizures almost every year for the past decade in East and Southeast Asia, but the latest data suggests the total drugs seized have fallen in 2022 to 151 tons, according to The report.

While a drop in seizures is often considered to be correlated with weakened production, the report states that “other indicators – arrests, street availability, purity, record wholesale and street prices and treatment admissions – indicate that supply remained very high or unchanged”.

He suggests that the decrease in seizures was due to traffickers changing their smuggling routes.

“Traffickers working along Thai borders in the Golden Triangle redirected a large supply of crystal meth through central Myanmar in the latter part of 2022 to evade Chinese and Thai interdiction efforts,” says he, explaining that they have increased shipments by sea from the coastal regions of Myanmar.

“Transnational organized crime groups are anticipating, adapting and trying to circumvent what governments are doing, and in 2022 we have seen them working around Thai borders in the Golden Triangle more than in the past,” Jeremy said. Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. . “Smugglers have continued to ship large volumes through Laos and northern Thailand, but at the same time they have pushed a large supply through central Myanmar into the Andaman Sea, where it seems few were watching.”

UNODC also expressed concern that Cambodia has become “a key transit point and, to some extent, a production point for regional drug trafficking”.

He suggests that while there has been a consolidation of synthetic drug production in the Golden Triangle, this development may reflect “some diversification of production and ‘coverage’ by organized crime.”

Industrial-scale ketamine labs and processing and storage facilities for the substance have been discovered across Cambodia, raising serious concerns across the region, he said.

“Organized crime groups have adopted a supply-driven modality of market expansion similar to the approach taken to grow the methamphetamine market in the region that began in 2015,” warns the trade report. ketamine, which has legal use as an anesthetic.

Landlocked Laos, adjacent to both Shan State and northern Thailand, is another weak link in the fight against drug trafficking, and “intelligence officials have come to the conclusion that the supply transits the country with little resistance,” the report said.

The report says that in addition to becoming an increasingly important route for drug trafficking out of Myanmar, the production of methamphetamine tablets has also been detected there in recent years.

It says methamphetamine and other drugs produced in Shan state labs typically enter Laos by crossing the Mekong from ports “under the control or influence of large non-state armed groups.”

He cites a few: ethnic militias, including the United Wa State Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, National Democratic Alliance Army, “and their allies who work in partnership with transnational organized crime syndicates”.

The case of Laos also illustrates the difficulties of preventing the ingredients needed to manufacture drugs from reaching illegal laboratories.

Laos, he said, is becoming an increasingly important route for chemicals that would be used in drug production in Myanmar, entering the country through Vietnam, Thailand and China.

“Efforts to disrupt chemical flows in drug-producing areas of Myanmar also continue to be hampered by slow and bureaucratic inter-agency coordination, insufficient resources and personnel, and limited cross-border cooperation,” the report said. report.

The traffickers have also taken initiatives to obtain the necessary supplies.

The main chemicals needed to manufacture methamphetamine are generally subject to strict international controls, so clandestine labs have in recent years begun to use chemicals that are not as tightly regulated. The report says the logistics of obtaining these chemicals have also been sped up by online ordering, especially from suppliers keen to conceal the nature of the transactions.

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