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Report: China Major Market in Heroin - 2003-02-26


A new United Nations Report says China has become the world's main market and transit point for heroin. The finding is included in the annual report by the U.N.'s International Narcotics Control Board.

Secretary of the International Narcotics Control Board, Herbert Schaepe, says this is a new development. He says China is now the main destination and transit area for heroin. "With the opening of China to the world markets, there is also this very negative impact that illicit drugs are getting increasingly into China," he says. "Opiates are coming from the Golden Triangle, mainly Myanmar [Burma], but also Laos. And, they are trafficked into China and through China to other markets."

The International Narcotics Control Board report says drug seizures are on the rise in China, due to both increased trafficking and intensified law enforcement efforts.

It says seizures of opiates have been stable or declining in countries in southeast Asia, and opium poppy cultivation in the area is down significantly. But the U-N report says the region remains the second largest source of opium and heroin in the world. Large amounts of heroin manufactured in the border areas of Burma continue to be transported through Thailand. The number of new heroin addicts in Thailand has declined. But, the number of heroin addicts has increased in China, Burma and Vietnam.

The report says the Russian Federation is also being used as a trafficking route for illicit drugs from Asia to Europe. The Narcotics Board also says illicit cannabis cultivation continues to be widespread in Africa, especially in Morocco. And it reports that Afghanistan is the world's biggest cultivator of opium, followed by Burma, Laos and Colombia.

The report also dispels the myth believed in many countries that drug trafficking can be a route to prosperity. On the contrary, it says illicit drug production prevents economic growth and does not lead to sustainable development in the long-term. The report says the big money is made in countries where illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine are sold and abused.

The U.N. report says the farmers in developing countries who grow the illicit crops, earn only one percent of the many billions of dollars earned in the illegal drug trade. The remaining 99 percent, it says, goes to the drug traffickers who refine, transport and sell the drugs to users in developed countries.

In addition, Mr. Schaepe says profits that are derived from the drug trade can destabilize the economic, social and political structures of poor countries. "Through the economy, it can corrupt the political classes. It can disturb and get into the disarray of the whole economic and political system," says Mr. Schaepe. "It can finance, as we have it in Afghanistan, as we have it certainly in Colombia insurgent groups. It can finance terrorists."

The Report shows how massive increases in opium production in the early 1990s helped fuel civil wars and led to the decline in economic growth in these countries. It notes hardly any region or any country in the world is unaffected by drug trafficking.

During the last couple of years, it says the global production of heroin and cocaine has stagnated. However, the abuse of these drugs has spread in many developing countries.

The International Narcotics Control Board says the manufacture and use of synthetic drugs such as ecstasy is spreading throughout the world.

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