Source: Vientiane Times
Laos can anticipate an increasing inflow of drugs trafficked from the Golden Triangle, with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warning that the synthetic drug market in East and Southeast Asia is continuing to expand and diversify.
UNODC presented its views on current trends in a report released on Friday titled “Synthetic Drugs in East and Southeast Asia: Latest Developments and Challenges”, which confirmed an increase in the variety and volume of synthetic drugs trafficked in the past year.
In a briefing held at the UNODC office in Bangkok on May 1, UNODC Representative for Southeast Asia and Pacific Jeremy Douglas said “It is hard to imagine that organised crime have again managed to expand the drug market, but they have.”
According to UNODC, 141.9kg of crystalline methamphetamine was seized in Laos in 2015, 150.1kg in 2016, 124.5kg in 2017, 1,841.5kg in 2018, and 5,106kg last year.
The report said the amount of crystalline methamphetamine seized annually in Laos had increased exponentially in recent years, with more than 5 tonnes being recovered last year. This was the largest ever amount reported in the country and represents a more than 30-fold increase since 2015.
The number of methamphetamine tablets seized has also in increased, with about 6 million tablets being confiscated in 2015 and 21 million tablets in 2018.
The report also noted that despite the increase in the amount of drugs seized in recent years, the average retail price of methamphetamine tablets has dropped to a record low of US$1 (9,000 kip) per tablet, indicating its wide availability.
UNODC also noted that Laos continues to be a significant transit country for chemicals used in the manufacture of illicit drugs, with the amount seized last year reaching a record high of 13 tonnes. In May last year authorities seized 10 tonnes of unspecified chemicals suspected to be methamphetamine precursors, which were destined for Myanmar.
The report referred to a statement by a UNODC official, who said the production and trafficking of synthetic drugs and chemicals was at record levels in the region while the world has shifted its attention to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Seizures of methamphetamine in East and Southeast Asia have increased year-on-year over the last decade, something not observed in any other part of the world.
Countries in the region confirmed seizures of 115 tonnes of methamphetamine last year, but this figure does not include any data from China, which has confiscated an average of nearly 30 tonnes a year in the last five years.
East and Southeast Asia are also witnessing a steady rise in dangerous synthetic opioids, the report noted.