Synthetic drug market in East, South-East Asia expands despite Covid-19, says UN report

BANGKOK, June 11 (Xinhua): Synthetic drug market in East and South-East Asia continued to expand despite the Covid-19 impacts, with production and trafficking surging in 2020, according to a report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Methamphetamine seizures have increased substantially in the region despite Covid-19 restrictions, according to the report titled "Synthetic Drugs in East and South-East Asia: latest developments and challenges 2021."

In 2020, the region's methamphetamine seizures amounted to 170 tonnes, surging 19 percent from 2019, according to the report, which did not provide the value of the seizures.

Although Covid-19 has disrupted legitimate cross-border trade, organised crime groups have been able to continue their expansion of the regional synthetic drug trade, Jeremy Douglas, UNODC regional representative for South-East Asia and the Pacific, said at an online news conference.

"While the pandemic has caused the global economy to slow down, criminal syndicates that dominate the region have quickly adapted and capitalized. They have continued to aggressively push supply in a conscious effort to build the market and demand," Douglas said.

The market expansion was largely driven by countries including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, which accounted for 71 per cent of the total methamphetamine seizure amount in the region, according to the report.

The report found traffickers have been using new routes, with significant volumes of methamphetamine being trafficked through Laos to Thailand and Vietnam for both market distribution and transshipment.

The report warned that the crystal methamphetamine supply surge has been accompanied by a rise in demand connected to record low wholesale and street prices.

It also noted challenges such as rising production and trafficking of ketamine, increasing harms to users of synthetic drugs and limited accessibility to drug treatment services. - Xinhua

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