Bangkok (Thailand), 27 June 2011 - Following by only a few hours the official launch of the 2011 World Drug Report in New York, Mr. Gary Lewis, UNODC Regional Representative for East Asia and the Pacific, met representatives of the media and various practitioners to share more specific insights on the findings in East and SE Asia.
"The world's two largest producers of illicit opiates remain Afghanistan and Myanmar - in that order" reported Mr. Lewis. "The fact that the global opium poppy cultivation registered a small increase over 2009 is to be attributed to a 20% increase in cultivation in Myanmar. As a result, of declining production in Afghanistan coupled with this increase in Myanmar, SE Asian opium now accounts for 12 per cent of the global figure - up from only 5 per cent in 2007".
The Report also notes that South-East Asia also plays a major role in the clandestine manufacture of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS). Methamphetamine manufacture is mainly concentrated in China, Malaysia Myanmar and the Philippines.
Referring to the worsening picture in the Region, Mr Lewis concluded that: "It is UNODC's responsibility to draw the world's collective attention to the alarming trends that are emerging in South-East Asia as well as to point to what can be done - on both a national and regional basis to respond to these trends. Urgent countermeasures have to be taken in consultation with Governments and civil society, starting from effective preventive measures addressing youth and vulnerable groups".
Aside from the opium resurgence in Myanmar and the surge in ATS manufacture in the region - especially in Myanmar, Mr Lewis indicated major additional drug supply concerns as relating to the heightened involvement in the region of West African and Iranian syndicates.
In terms of drug demand, UNODC is concerned about the young age of methamphetamine users, the fact that there are ynsufficient treatment services for ATS users and the prevalence of compulsory treatment centres in the region. Such centres, Lewis indicates generally have poor success rates and can risk the spread of HIV. They have also been associated with allegations of human rights abuses.
Mr. Lewis discussed a number of drug control initiatives underway in East and SE Asia which were receiving support from UNODC.
New York Launch
Twelve hours earlier the main World Drug Report launched took place in New York on 23th June with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov; President of the UN General Assembly Joseph Deiss and Viktor Ivanov, Director of Russia's Federal Service for Drug Control.
Speaking at the New York launch Mr. Fedotov drew special attention to problems in SE Asia, noting, "The Golden Triangle is not just about opium anymore; it's a business that caters to consumers. The international community seems to have taken its eye off the ball on drug control in South-East Asia. We have to be proactive on all fronts before the region again becomes a major drugs hub."