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, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline 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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid