The massive traffic of methamphetamine and other illicit drugs emanating from a small areas in Southeast Asia indicates no signs of decreasing, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime report revealed.
“High volumes of methamphetamine continue to be produced and trafficked in and out of the region, while production of ketamine and other synthetic drugs has increased,” the Agency’s Synthetic Drugs in East and Southeast Asia 2023 study stated.
The Golden Triangle, thus the borders of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand intersection, produces the largest quantity of methamphetamine that comes in the shape of pills and crystal meth.
Opium and heroin production have used to thrive there, owing to the illegality in Myanmar’s distant eastern Shan State. The territory, much of which is a jungle, remains under the control of several ethnic minority militias and some of which are drug traffickers.
“Methamphetamine continues to be the most used drug in East and Southeast Asia and that use has increased over the past decade,” the report says. It’s also much simpler to produce on a large scale than the laborious cultivation of opium, from which heroin is produced. The medicine is then disseminated throughout Asia and the Pacific by land, sea, and air.
According to the research, major criminal organized groups’ dominance over territories “has allowed them to massively increase and diversify supply for the purposes of market expansion and domination.”
“The most powerful regional trafficking networks are able to operate with a high degree of certainty they can and will not be stopped, and they are able to dictate the terms and conditions of the market as a result,” the report said.
For the past decade, East and Southeast Asia have seen unprecedented methamphetamine seizures annually. The most recent figures predict that, total drugs confiscated would fall to 151 tons in 2022, per the research.
While a decrease in seizures have been associated with production reductions, the report states that “other indicators arrests, street availability, purity, record low wholesale and street prices, and treatment admissions indicate the supply has remained very high or unchanged.”
It appears that the decline in seizures were caused by smugglers shifting their trafficking routes. “Traffickers working along Thai borders in the Golden Triangle rerouted significant crystal methamphetamine supply through central Myanmar over the later part of 2022 to avoid Chinese and Thai interdiction efforts,” the report claimed, adding that deliveries by sea from Myanmar’s coastal regions rose.
“Transnational organized crime groups anticipate, adapt and try to circumvent what governments do, and in 2022 we saw them work around Thai borders in the Golden Triangle more than in the past. Traffickers have continued to ship large volumes through Laos and northern Thailand, but at the same time they have pushed significant supply through central Myanmar to the Andaman Sea, where it seems few were looking.”Jeremy Douglas, UNODC regional representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
The UNODC also expressed concern that, Cambodia has become “a key transit and to some extent production point for the regional drug trade.”
It shows that, while chemical drug production has consolidated in the Golden Triangle, this growth might indicate “some diversification of production and hedging by organized crime.” Industrial-scale ketamine labs and manufacturing and storing facilities have been discovered across Cambodia, igniting severe concerns across the region, the report revealed.
“Organized crime groups have adopted a supply-driven market expansion modality similar to the approach taken to expand the region’s methamphetamine market, which began in 2015,” the research cautioned, regarding the ketamine trade, which has authorized usage as an anesthetic.
Landlocked Laos has been an additional vulnerable component in the war against drug trafficking, and “intelligence officials have come to the conclusion that supply is transiting the country with little resistance,” the study stated.
According to the research, meth tablet manufacturing has been identified in Myanmar in recent years, along with to being a more crucial conduit for drugs transported out of the country.
According to the report, meth and other drugs manufactured in Shan State labs, typically reach Laos by passing through the Mekong River via ports “under the control or influence of major non-state armed groups.”
The report names ethnic militias such as the United Wa State Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, and the National Democratic Alliance Army, as well as “their allies who collaborate with transnational organized crime syndicates.”