According to a new report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published on March 30.
This enables drug cartels in Asia to flood markets with billions of dollars worth of synthetic drugs even as the global economy continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The scale and spread of the methamphetamine and synthetic drug trade in East and Southeast Asia is staggering, yet it could continue to expand unless the region changes its approach and addresses the causes that have allowed it to reach this point,” he told Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative in Southeast Asia.
Douglas said organized crime groups have benefited from recent political instability, such as the military coup in Myanmar that has left some border areas largely lawless and easy to exploit, while lower prices are popular with consumers.
“Continuing low prices for crystal methamphetamine in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia and Thailand, while drug purity remains high, means greater affordability and access to higher-purity drugs,” Douglas said.
“Organized crime [syndicates] They have all the components they need to continue growing the business, including the manufacturing area, access to chemicals, existing trade routes and relationships to transport the product, and a large population with the purchasing power to achieve the goal.”
“They look at the area and see the potential and the profits.”
Drug boom in the austerity zone
In Southeast Asia, a region of over 680 million people in 11 countries, methamphetamine is a thriving multibillion-dollar trade that has led to the substitution of opium and its derivatives from heroin becoming the predominant illicit drug for use and export.
This is despite the region being known for having some of the harshest drug laws in the world, with some crimes punishable by death in Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam.
One of Asia’s largest drug raids occurred in Laos last October, when local police seized more than 55.6 million methamphetamine pills in a single raid.
The United Nations agency noted that drug production sites are on the rise in Cambodia.
“A secret lab that was dismantled there last year was an industrial-scale facility set up to manufacture ketamine and possibly other drugs,” she added.
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