A new report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warns that there has been a significant increase in methamphetamine production in Southeast Asia over the past year, leading to an oversupply of the drug in East and Southeast Asia.
UNODC released a report, Synthetic Drugs in East and South-East Asia: Trends and Patterns of Amphetamine-type Stimulants and New Psychoactive Substances, on Monday which said there were more than 116 tonnes of confirmed methamphetamine seizures in the region last year.
This, it said, represented a 210 per cent increase compared to seizures in 2013. In 2017, the total seized was 82 tonnes.
“Data on seizures, prices, use and treatment all point to continuing expansion of the methamphetamine market in East and Southeast Asia."
“Seizures of methamphetamine in 2018 were once again a record, yet street prices of the drug decreased in many parts of the region indicating very high and increasing levels of availability,” said Tun Nay Soe, UNODC Inter-regional Programme Coordinator.
Jeremy Douglas, UNODC’s Southeast Asia and the Pacific regional representative, said in addition to the concern over the methamphetamine surge, synthetic opioids and other drugs have also been found across the region, and this required the authority to change the response.
UNODC said in Cambodia, the market for methamphetamine, particularly in crystalline form, continues to expand.
“Increasingly larger quantities of crystalline methamphetamine continue to be seized annually, with the amount seized in 2018 exceeding the five previous years’ totals combined."
“The average retail price of both crystalline methamphetamine and methamphetamine tablets have decreased significantly in recent years, indicating the wider availability of the drug,” it said.
Annual seizures of “ecstasy”, it said, have also increased significantly in recent years due to large quantities of the drug trafficked from Europe. But based on the limited use of “ecstasy” in the country, the report said, this kind of drug may have been destined for other countries.
“Cambodia continues to be used as a transit point for cocaine trafficking by transnationally organised crime groups”, the report continued.
Last year, Cambodian authorities arrested more than 16,000 people, equal to 44 people per day, and seized a total of 533kg of illegal drugs.
The National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) secretary-general Meas Vyrith said on Tuesday that he could only estimate the amount of drugs seized in the Kingdom because he had not received the categorised list of drugs.
He said he met with UNODC representative Igor Kondratyev on Monday to discuss drug control along the border and the increasing efforts of the Border Liaison Offices (BLOs) to work with neighbouring countries.
Vyrith said he also reviewed the BLOs’ lack of technical equipment and their weaknesses. Cambodia has fourteen BLOs but two more are to be established soon along the border with Vietnam.
He said drug traffickers deploy their agents in the countries experiencing economic growth.
“When a country is developed, people have better living conditions. They have more money and like to be happy. So, these kinds of people are a target for drug use,” he said.
He said in fighting drug trafficking, Cambodia cooperates with anti-drug units from countries in the region and around the world to share information about suspects.
Vyrith said the price of drugs sold in Cambodia was stable, but the overall price around the world had decreased, which was a major cause for concern.