INCB: Expanding illicit markets for methamphetamine remains among INCB's biggest concerns in East and Southeast Asia

Bangkok (Thailand), 3 March 2015
- Increases in the illicit manufacture and trafficking of amphetamine-type stimulants constitutes a leading source of illicit drug-related activity in Southeast Asia, while limited access to medicines for legitimate purposes remains a great concern to the Board, says Dr. Viroj Sumyai, Board Member to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). Today the INCB published both its 2014 Annual Report and its annual report on Precursors and Chemicals Frequently Used in the Illicit Manufacture of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Rising demand of methamphetamine pills persist in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, particularly in Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Thailand. The INCB reports that use of methamphetamine remains among the biggest concerns in most countries in the region. Clandestine laboratories within East and Southeast Asia manufacture methamphetamines for consumption within the region, primarily crossing land borders, but also through its seaports and airports. The expanding flow of methamphetamine across the region is evident as the report stated, 847kg of methamphetamine were seized by Japan in 2013, nearly double the amount from the previous year.

The demand for methamphetamine also fuels a sustained need for precursor chemicals. Drug syndicates now smuggle domestically obtained precursor chemicals across borders within the region. According to INCB estimates, more than half of all precursor seizures in East and Southeast Asian countries since 2009 had originated within the region itself, while nearly half of the precursor seizures in Australia and New Zealand had also originated from East and Southeast Asia. Of equal concern are ephedrines diverted in India and smuggled across its borders into neighboring Myanmar.

Non-scheduled substances used as substitute precursors as well as substitutes for internationally controlled drugs are increasingly problematic. The INCB report noted that the number of new psychoactive substances (NPS) reported by Governments continues to soar with 388 unique substances identified as of 2014, with their production often cited in China.

INCB highlighted the importance of approaches to facilitate legitimate unfettered trade in controlled substances while addressing security and diversion concerns. Increasing ASEAN regional integration has the real potential for growing cross-border trafficking of drugs and precursor chemicals. The UNODC supports ASEAN members through improved border management capacity with an integrated network of Border Liaison Offices (BLO), which are staffed with trained front-line officers who are equipped and able to communicate information and real-time intelligence. This will facilitate secure legitimate movement of goods and people across the region.

"At a time of unprecedented regional growth, there are many challenges to confronting transnational organized crime and the need for sustainable partnerships is imperative" says, Jeremy Douglas, Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Expansion of the joint UNODC-World Customs Organization (WCO) Container Control Programme in Thailand and Viet Nam and the establishment of Port Intelligence Units in Cambodia are additional efforts to better facilitate legitimate commerce via seaports in the region. To address increasing international movements of harmful non-scheduled substances, UNODC will team up with INCB to co-host an international conference on precursor chemicals and new psychoactive substances at the UN Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific on 21-24 April 2015.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is the independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations international drug control conventions. It was established in 1968 in accordance with the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961.