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ATS second-most popular illicit drug in Viet Nam, heroin still no. 1

Hanoi (Viet Nam), 8 July 2013
- While heroin remains the most widely used illicit drug in Viet Nam, the amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) market continues to expand and diversify, with a 65 per cent increase in the country's methamphetamine pill seizures in 2011, according to the UNODC World Drug Report 2013.

The Report, an annual UNODC publication that examines developments, trends, threats, and challenges in global illicit drug use and production, notes that seizure data indicates that Afghan opiates are emerging as competitor to opiates produced in Southeast Asia and consumed in Viet Nam, demonstrating that drug traffickers are diversifying their source regions and routes.

The Report's findings were discussed at the Mini-Dublin Group meeting in Hanoi, to mark the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

The Mini-Dublin group meets regularly to share information on drug trends and policy developments in Viet Nam. The meeting was chaired by HE Hugh Borrowman, Australia's Ambassador to Viet Nam. He called for a coordinated approach and stronger cooperation among international community to support the national authorities in Vietnam in addressing the illicit drugs issue. There is a need "to follow" the money generated from illicit activities. It is only with comprehensive measures, including freeze/confiscation of illicit assets that the issue can be effectively dealt with, said HE Mr Borrowman.

At the meeting, Assistant Commissioner Steve Lancaster, Crime Operations, Australian Federal Police, emphasized the importance of international cooperation in dealing with drug abuse and illicit trafficking. He also highlighted related priority areas in bilateral cooperation between Australia and Vietnam, which is growing in volume and scope.

The Report was presented by Ms. Zhuldyz Akisheva, Country Manager, who highlighted the link to transnational organized crime in the region.

"The increases in seizures and use of opiates and amphetamines throughout Southeast Asia - and the diversification of smuggling routes - is an indication of the increases in money flows to the transnational organized crime groups that States struggle to deal with," she said . "We need to support Southeast Asia's rapid regional integration and economic growth by providing Members States with coordinated regional responses to transnational organized crime."

"It is a concern that the general level of knowledge about ATS remains low in the country, as the most prevalent ATS users are youth in large cities, border areas, and industrial zones, with an increase in rural areas," said Ms. Akisheva.

Ms. Akisheva also noted the growing threat of new psychoactive substances (NPS) - drugs designed to remain outside the international drug control system. These have emerged as a major public health concern because of the lack of scientific research and understanding of their health effects.

Marketed as 'legal highs' and 'designer drugs', NPS are proliferating at a high rate. The number of NPS reported by UNODC Member States increased from 166 in 2009 to 251 by mid-2012, an increase of more than 50 per cent. The biggest challenge is that the drugs are legal and have not been tested for safety. Sold openly, often via the internet, NPS can be far more dangerous than traditional illicit drugs. Their alluring street names - 'spice', 'meow-meow', and 'bath salts' - can mislead young people into believing that they are indulging in low-risk fun.

The Mini-Dublin group is part of the Dublin Group, an informal consultation and coordination mechanism that meets regularly to address global, regional and country-specific problems arising from illicit drugs production, trafficking and demand. Participants cooperate closely on international, regional and bilateral drugs policy. In Viet Nam, the Mini-Dublin Group includes a Southeast Asia and China regional group, which Australia co-chairs with Japan.