JAKARTA – The synthetic drug supply in East and Southeast Asia remains at extreme levels and is diversifying, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)’s report.
The report released recently found high volumes of methamphetamine continue to be produced and trafficked in and from the region, while the production of ketamine and other synthetic drugs has expanded.
UNODC’s report also confirmed an expansion and diversification of synthetic drug production and trafficking in the region, while trafficking routes have shifted significantly.
“Criminal groups from across the region also started moving and reconnecting after lengthy pandemic border closures, with late 2022 and early 2023 patterns starting to look similar to 2019,” its regional representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Jeremy Douglas said.
Transnational crime groups adapt and try to circumvent what governments do and work around Thai borders in the Golden Triangle last year as countries step up actions to eradicate the trade of illicit drugs.
They ship through Laos and northern Thailand and pushed supply through central Myanmar to the Andaman Sea “where it seems few were looking”, he said.
According to the report, methamphetamine seizures in 2022 returned to pre-COVID-19 levels with nearly 151 tonnes seized in-part because land borders, particularly in the lower Mekong subregion.
Intensified law enforcement efforts in Yunnan, China and along the Thai border with Myanmar resulted in a large drop in seizure levels in China and a slight decrease in Thailand, but leading to an increase in the use of maritime routes by traffickers.
South Asia has also been further integrated into the Southeast Asian market, with methamphetamine trafficked in high volumes from Myanmar into Bangladesh and rising frequency into northeast India.
Besides methamphetamine, the region seized a record 27.4 tonnes of ketamine in 2022, an increase of 167 per cent, with all countries and territories in the region reporting an increase except Hong Kong, China.
The large mixed shipments of methamphetamine and ketamine were seized by authorities across the region, showing organised crime continues to push the two drugs as a package to grow ketamine demand.
“The ketamine situation in the region in many ways mirrors the supply-driven approach used to expand the methamphetamine market in the mid-2010s,” UNODC regional coordinator on synthetic drugs, Inshik Sim said. – Bernama