According to the United Nations, criminal gangs grew their businesses last year by taking advantage of the Covid-19 outbreak and the chaos in Myanmar after a coup. They seized one billion methamphetamine pills in East & South-East Asia.
The Golden Triangle, a part of Southeast Asia with porous borders and poor local law enforcement, has been known for a long time as a major hub for drug trafficking. The porous borders and poor local law enforcement make it easy for illegal drugs to move around.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says that law enforcement has seized 172 tonnes of methamphetamine in the last ten years. This is about seven times as much as was seized in the previous ten years, and the increase in supply has caused street prices in Thailand and Malaysia to drop to all-time lows.
In a statement, Jeremy Douglas of the UNODC said, “It is amazing how much and how wide the trade in methamphetamine and synthetic drugs is in East and Southeast Asia.”
He said that the pandemic and the political turmoil in the area had helped armed groups and organised crime a lot.
“Organized crime has everything it needs to keep growing,” he said, adding that they needed to target a “large population with spending power.”
Kavinvadee Suppapongtevasakul, a UNODC regional synthetic medicines specialist for the global SMART project, says that the substance has become “much more reachable and available to people who couldn’t afford it before.”
“The rise in use has big effects on society, and regional health and harm reduction programmes are still not enough,” she said.
While the number of meth tablets seized went up quickly, the UNODC said that crystal methamphetamine seizures went down slightly in 2020, from 82 tonnes to 79 tonnes. This is still a lot more than the less than 10 tonnes that were seized a decade earlier.
According to the research, most of the meth in the region comes from the northern Shan state of Myanmar. It is then smuggled into Laos, Thailand, and Malaysia before being sold in Asia-Pacific countries.