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Police officers catalogue paraphernalia thought to be have been used in drug production during a raid in Kampong Speu province’s Phnom Sruoch district in 2012
Police officers catalogue paraphernalia thought to be have been used in drug production during a raid in Kampong Speu province’s Phnom Sruoch district in 2012. Heng Chivoan

Meth on rise in Kingdom: UN

Asia's insatiable demand for methamphetamine has ratcheted up worldwide production and led to a tripling of seizures in the past five years, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) – and Cambodia is no anomaly to the regional trend.

Released yesterday, the UNODC’s 2014 Global Synthetic Drugs Assessment says that Asia is the world’s largest market for amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), and that while Myanmar remains the regional hub for ATS production, including meth and Ecstasy, the UNODC has traced back a growing proportion of seizures to labs in Cambodia.

“The rise in ATS use and trafficking is tied to the increase in local production evident in the seizure of labs in Cambodia. In 2006, the heroin supply temporarily dried up in Cambodia because of Thaksin [Shinawatra]’s war on drugs in northern Thailand,” David Harding, a technical adviser for Friends International, said.

“That was the beginning of an accelerated rise in the supply and consumption of crystal methamphetamine … a glut of crystal meth that had not been affected by the breakdown of traditional supply routes suggested that it was homegrown.”

Clay Nayton, a locally based drug treatment officer with the UNODC, said: “In Cambodia, ATS is still the most commonly used drug, but we’re also seeing a rise in ketamine use along the Thai and Laos border, which is surprising.”

Ketamine, a powerful tranquiliser nicknamed “Special K” in the West, was first discovered in the Kingdom in 2001, when a Singaporean national was apprehended with five kilograms of powder strapped to his body. UNDOC’s new report pinpoints Cambodia as one of the countries where “most ketamine seized in countries world-wide is perceived to originate”.

The report also names Cambodia as a key supplier of safrole oil, a precursor ingredient for Ecstasy, with huge busts reported in 2011 and 2012.

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