News / Asia

UN: Record Seizures of Pills, Crystal Meth in Asia in 2012

FILE - A U.S. Customs handout photo of the drug ya ba, which was discovered in a shipment of chopsticks.
FILE - A U.S. Customs handout photo of the drug ya ba, which was discovered in a shipment of chopsticks.
Law enforcement seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) in the Asia-Pacific region hit a record high in 2012, according to a United Nations organization.
 
In a report released Friday, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) expresses concern that trans-national organized crime groups, including those from Iran, are expanding drug trafficking by exploiting Asia's increased regional integration that allows for the freer flow of products and people.
 
Based on information from drug control agencies and other institutions in 11 countries, UNODC representative Jeremy Douglas said seizures for two types of methamphetamines “have literally gone through the roof.” He cites one pill in particular, known as “yaba” (“madness drug”) in Thailand and “shabu” in other countries, as a particular problem; 227 million of the caffeine-spiked tablets were seized in the Asia-Pacific region last year.
 
Of that total, more than 100 million of the pills were seized in China alone. Nearly that many were seized in Thailand as well.
 
Besides Thailand, seizures “increased significantly” in Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Japan, according to the UNODC report.
 
“Demand for [methamphetamine pills] is incredibly high in the [East and Southeast Asia] sub region,” said Douglas, UNODC's Southeast Asia and the Pacific regional representative. “We’re estimating a minimum of 1.5 billion pills are needed within the sub region. And seizing over 200 million would indicate they have a very high percentage being seized, which would indicate success. So, in other words, law enforcement are giving priority to this and they’re seizing a lot.”
 
Meth Users Ignorant of Additional Risks
 
Those concerned with the problem in the region note the ease with which one can get addicted to yaba, which is especially popular among young working males.
 
“They’ve been unaware of what they’re taking. They think it’s a nice little pretty pink pill and it’s harmless because it’s a pill and pills are good. So they get into it,” Douglas told VOA. “The same thing could be happening in some markets where you have lower education levels in relation to crystal meth, as well.”
 
The UNODC data reveals crystal meth is also being consumed in record levels in the Asia-Pacific region.
 
“It’s indicating a diversity in the market, the drug market. And it’s also indicating huge demand as well as very large supply, both production within the region and we’re seeing production from outside the region coming in now,” explained Douglas.
 
There was only a trace of crystal meth in the region just five years ago, but since then an illicit drug network has created a booming multi-national market for the highly-addictive stimulant, which has received greater global awareness following its central role in the U.S. television series, “Breaking Bad.”
 
“In some cases, they gave it away as a test for people to see if they’d take it, see if they’d like it,” according to Douglas. “They built the taste for it, they built the demand for it. Now they ship it into the region.”
 
Iranian Links to Asian Meth
 
Iran-based trans-national crime groups are involved, according to U.N. officials. The “very sophisticated” operations have established drug labs in India and Pakistan to supply dealers, especially in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
 
Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards are “significantly involved in the international drug trade, both directly and through proxies,” alleges the conservative think tank The American Center for Democracy.
 
“This involvement provides the organization with access to sources of financing that bypass international sanctions, as well as to sophisticated operational platforms that support its subversive efforts aimed at the West.”
 
An opposition group with sources in the country, Green Experts of Iran, has made similar accusations.
 
The UNODC report contains no information about North Korea's manufacture or consumption of drugs because U.N. officials primarily rely on information provided by local drug enforcement agencies.
 
For decades, state-run drug factories in North Korea reputedly produced high-grade meth and other drugs for export to China as part of Pyongyang's pursuit of illicit hard currency. However, there is scant evidence in recent years of government-organized trafficking. Some of the border drug trade has blown back into the impoverished and reclusive country, resulting in use at “epidemic levels in North Hamgyung and other provinces,” according to the journal North Korea Review.
 
Pharmaceutical Industry Tied to Meth Spread
 
Authorities across the region also face regulatory challenges in combating the trade. In particular, authorities struggle to oversee the chemical and pharmaceutical industries which make or acquire the ingredients needed to manufacture methamphetamines.
 
“We’re seeing diversion of precursor chemicals from the pharmaceutical industry,” explained Douglas. “We’re also seeing diversion of pharmaceutical products, particularly out of South Asia - India and to some extent, Bangladesh - into the drug production cycle.”
 
The illicit drugs are generating billions of dollars in the region. The money is then laundered through banks and property markets in Asia, according to specialists in the region.
 
Corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary is also speeding the spread of meth across Asia. The graft is permeating through professions not normally associated with trans-national organized crime.
 
“There are many cases within this region of medical supply companies diverting pharmaceuticals knowingly into this meth production, from hospitals or from doctors’ medical supplies. So there’s obviously corruption there, as well,” said Douglas.
 
Officials predict the problem will get worse from 2015 on, when ASEAN's economic community, composed of 600 million people, is set for integration.
 
“A lot of people really haven’t thought that through,” said Douglas. “When you start opening the borders, which are already fairly open, but you open them even further, and you start pumping goods and people through the region much more quickly, there is a high probability that you’re going to end up with an increase in trafficking,” predicted Douglas.
 
However, the full scope of the problem is not yet clear. The UNODC report concedes that “numerous challenges remain in assessing the full extent of the security and health implications of the illicit manufacture, trafficking and use of ATS and other synthetic drugs in the region.”

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: ali baba from: new york
November 08, 2013 4:56 AM
The history taught us about heroin trade and how a Chinese mam stand against it. drug trade generate money and that money is used to support terrorism . they can achieve their aim to destroy the whole world with two ways .drug and terrorism . so what is the strategy for the civilized world to face that danger .

by: Ali baba from: New york
November 08, 2013 4:47 AM
drug problem will destroy the whole world. we are facing an epidemic of mental illness which cause a night mare. the rate of people who suffering from depression has exceeded an epidemic proportion. depression is linked with serious physical illness such as heart attack and kidney failure. Again Pakistan and Iranian with Islamic ideology to destroy with another means. first they harbor terrorism, support them financially . now they invented another means to turn planet earth into a nightmare people whom they will live in pain as a result of mental illness and physical illness as well. Where is Obama .where is democrat whom play soft ball with this criminal in Pakistan and Iran . why Us send drone to destroy the lab which produce this drug .

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More