UN says methamphetamine threat to Asia still high

  • Associated Press
  • December 12, 2012 - 5:18 AM

BANGKOK - The powerful form of methamphetamine known as crystal meth is rapidly gaining market share among the traders and users of illicit stimulants in East and Southeast Asia, the United Nations' anti-drug agency said Wednesday.

In its annual report on amphetamine-type stimulants in the region, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said those substances are the most-used or second-most-used illicit drugs in 13 of the 15 Asia-Pacific countries surveyed.

The report also said that methamphetamine seizures in East and Southeast Asia represent nearly half of the world's total.

While the number of methamphetamine pills seized in 2011 dropped 9 percent from the year before to nearly 123 million, seizures of crystalline methamphetamine — or crystal meth — rose by 23 percent to 8.8 metric tons, which was nearly twice the 2009 total of 4.8 metric tons, the report said.

"Myanmar remains the top source of illicit methamphetamine pills in East and Southeast Asia, and is also a source of crystalline methamphetamine," the U.N. agency said. Myanmar is also the world's second-biggest producer, after Afghanistan, of opium and its derivative, heroin. UNODC regional representative Gary Lewis said at a news conference that aiding Myanmar's anti-drug effort was crucial to controlling the region's illegal drug trade.

The report said that China, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are major producers of crystal meth, with "large-scale manufacturing" of it reported in Cambodia.

Since 2007, the quantity of amphetamine-type stimulants — or ATS — "has increased dramatically," said the report, basing its conclusion on the number of illicit laboratories seized: 401 in 2011, compared with 125 in 2007.

"Significant quantities of ATS continue to be illicitly manufactured in China, where illicit drug manufacture has expanded from the southern coastal areas of China to northern and central areas of the country," the report said.

In addition to the vast amounts of ATS manufactured in the region, organized crime gangs from Africa and Iran continue to smuggle such drugs into the region, the agency said.

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