The challenge

The illicit drug market in Southeast Asia is undergoing a profound change associated with a steep increase in the manufacture of synthetic drugs especially methamphetamine, particularly in northern Myanmar. Organized crime groups operating in the region are manufacturing and trafficking both crystalline and tablet methamphetamine for East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and increasingly South Asia. Seizures of both forms of the drug are being made in quantities unimaginable a decade ago, with 126 tons seized in 2018 in Southeast Asia and its neighbouring East Asia, making the region as the largest methamphetamine market in the world.

Organized crime groups in East and Southeast Asia have a comparative advantage for the manufacture of synthetic drugs, as the region is the centre of global chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Coupled with the lack of a regional precursor control strategy and weak national capacities, East and Southeast Asia has been the prominent region of origin for various synthetic drugs, such as methamphetamine and potent synthetic opioids (i.e. fentanyl), found at the global level.

Our work

UNODC works with governments and regional partners to address the challenges related to drugs and precursor chemicals in the region. UNODC works with Member States to enhance the core capacities of law enforcement agencies to identify and address drug and precursor trafficking transnationally through:

  1. Strengthening systems in order to better gather information and develop intelligence;
  2. Enhancing knowledge and skills to investigation, case preparation and prosecution;
  3. Improving interdiction capacity through training programmes;
  4. Enhancing capabilities to identify, profile and share information; and
  5. Strengthening networks for cross-border cooperation, including the Mekong Drug Control MOU mechanism.

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