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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid