Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Drug supply booming in region, UN report claims

Drug supply booming in region, UN report claims

Drug supply booming in region, UN report claims

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced in its May report that East and Southeast Asia have experienced a massive expansion of its illicit drug supply in recent years as manufacturing has evolved and the scale of facilities has broadened.

Released last Friday, the report noted that the Covid-19 pandemic is unlikely to slow the illegal drug trade, especially since organised crime groups in the region have proven flexible, responding to shortages by risking more dangerous trafficking routes.

The upgrades in drug manufacturing have also created purer drugs for lower prices, the report said.

Most of the methamphetamine manufactured in East and Southeast Asia is also trafficked and consumed there.

“Trafficking in the lower Mekong region also takes place in a variety of ways across borders, which are porous and difficult to control. Cross-border movements in many places will not be significantly hindered by Covid-19 measures,” the report said.

It said drug trafficking will continue at a high volume as synthetic drugs continue to be produced in the Golden Triangle, the zone where the borders of Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand meet and there is limited government regulation.

The region has been one of the leading opium-producers in the world for decades.

According to the UNODC report, the supply of precursor chemicals is not likely to be disrupted for the foreseeable future.

The report mentioned that local distribution will be affected by movement restrictions put into place by countries to combat the spread of Covid-19. It cautioned that economic hardships could increase crime.

“An already vulnerable population of drug users may be exposed to additional risks as funding is re-prioritised, access to programmes and services becomes difficult, treatment providers are hampered and communities concentrate on coping with the repercussions of Covid-19,” the report said.

The UNODC said the methamphetamine market in East and Southeast Asia and its neighbouring countries is worth up to $61.4 billion per year.

In Cambodia, the use of methamphetamine tablets, crystalline methamphetamine, ecstasy, heroin and ketamine increased last year, while marijuana and cocaine use decreased.

But Preah Sihanouk province is gaining importance as a transfer point for regional and inter-regional methamphetamine trafficking. Shipments of crystal methamphetamine have been discovered en route to the Philippines and Australia, according to the report.

It said in March, Thai authorities seized more than 600kg of crystal methamphetamine from several islands in Trat province, and the package was believed to be destined for Sihanoukville before being shipped elsewhere.

The four countries in the Mekong region – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand – are also concerned about a sharp decrease in prices of the drug over the past decade.

“Notwithstanding the significant annual seizures of methamphetamine in tablet and crystalline forms, average retail prices have dropped to their lowest level on record, indicating widespread availability,” the report said about Cambodia.

According to data from the report, the price of one methamphetamine tablet was less than $2 last year, compared to $4 the previous year. The price of crystalline methamphetamine dropped from $20 per gramme in 2017 to less than $15 in 2018.

Deputy secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) Mak Chito told The Post on Monday that despite the Covid-19 pandemic, drug traffickers were still in business, although their activities have slowed.

He said traffickers are afraid of the virus and authorities are strictly controlling border movements because of it.

“In the past, there were many borders crossings. Now, they are afraid of the police, Military Police and soldiers along the borders. So, we’re seeing that they are not so active in Cambodia,” he said.

“But on the global level, their activities are not decreasing,” he said, adding Cambodia is not a drug-producing country.

Chito said drug use across the world was skewed towards methamphetamine because it is easy to produce.

“We are doing better than other neighbouring countries because we have been trying hard through our anti-drug campaign. We prevent and crack down on drugs.

“But some countries have gangsters. We don’t have anything like the mafia,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    The Ministry of Health has issued a directive on the treatment of people who have tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, following a suggestion from Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of January 21. The directive permits home quarantine for those who

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • Hun Sen gets 4th Covid shot, urges compatriots to follow

    Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany on January 14 received their fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine and called on compatriots to follow suit as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in the community. This marks the launch of Cambodia's fourth-dose vaccination campaign,

  • Fourth dose Covid booster drive jabs 43K in two days

    In the first two days of the fourth-dose Covid-19 vaccination campaign, more than 43,000 people volunteered to get the jabs, while over 4.6 million people have received a third shot. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that fourth-dose vaccinations, which began on January 14 exclusively with the Pfizer

  • Singapore backs Cambodia's efforts on Myanmar

    Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong supports Cambodia in its efforts to seek a solution to the ongoing Myanmar crisis as the chair of ASEAN. Lee expressed his support during a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen via videoconference on January 14, with the talks focused