Crime & Justice

Synthetic drug trafficking increased in Asia in 2020 despite pandemic

Bangkok, Jun 10 (EFE).- Trafficking in synthetic drugs, mainly from Myanmar, increased last year in East and Southeast Asia despite the prevalence of Covid-19 restrictions, according to a report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released Thursday.

In this regard, seizures of methamphetamine, by far the most popular drug, increased 19 percent to 170 tons in 2020 compared to the previous year, of which 71 percent were seized in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

Most methamphetamine laboratories in the region are located in Shan state in northeastern Myanmar, and the main trafficking routes pass through the so-called Golden Triangle, bordering Thailand and Laos.

Other routes run between Myanmar and India and Bangladesh or by sea to countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, with ramifications that reach South Korea, Japan and Australia.

“Covid-19 had a very limited impact. It shows the flexibility of organized crime groups targeting the region to push synthetic drugs in the market,” Inshik Sim, one of the authors of the report, said via video conference from the foreign correspondents’ club in Bangkok.

According to the study, the coronavirus restrictions resulted in a reduction in synthetic drug trafficking from the second quarter, but criminal organizations adapted in the following months and made recovery.

While drug seizures increased in Southeast Asia, in East Asia they fell by 17 percent to 25.7 tons, reaching the lowest level since 2013, which UNODC attributed in part to restrictions on movement due to the pandemic.

Other drugs whose trafficking and consumption increased in the region were Ecstasy, made from MDMA, as well as ketamine or synthetic opiates, but in quantities significantly lower than methamphetamine. EFE


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