Ladies and gentlemen,
The Mekong MOU on Drug Control is a unique collaborative drug control framework. UNODC is proud to support it, as a signatory and as secretariat.
I am pleased to welcome here today the Secretary General of the Narcotics Control Board of Thailand, Niyom Termsrisuk, representing the outgoing Ministerial Chair, and the Vice Minister of Public Security and Deputy Director of the National Narcotics Control Commission of China, Tsang Wai-Hung, as the incoming Ministerial Chair, as well as senior officials of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam.
For several years, we have been seeing a shift from traditional opiates to synthetic drugs in the region, which is now facing unprecedented levels of methamphetamine production and trafficking.
According to UNODC research, the market for methamphetamines in Southeast Asia is valued at up to 61.4 billion dollars annually. Overall, synthetic drugs have become the most profitable illicit business in Southeast Asia.
Precursor control, which could aid law enforcement in stopping the manufacture of synthetic drugs, remains a challenge. Record methamphetamine seizures, including 126 tons in the region last year alone, coupled with prices declining to levels last seen 20 years ago, illustrate how abundant and affordable synthetic drugs have become. This, in turn, is driving drug use, with drug prevention and treatment systems unable to keep up.
It is clear that any gaps in the response, on the level of law enforcement or justice systems, will be exploited by organized crime syndicates.
The six Mekong MOU countries have taken this situation as a call to action, recognizing the need to recalibrate efforts and expand collaboration.
In November last year, you concluded negotiations on a new agreement and Action Plan outlining the main actions to be undertaken with UNODC, in line with the recommendations of the 2016 UNGASS outcome document, which emphasized balanced responses to drug supply and demand.
UNODC commends this approach and will work with you to make it succeed. We are supporting the Mekong MOU countries through regional and country programmes in the four main areas of collaboration of the Action Plan: law enforcement, justice, alternative development and health.
Our unique mandates and experience make UNODC particularly well-suited to developing and effectively implementing such integrated responses.
Highlights of the work we are doing together include a cross-border joint operation addressing drug and precursor trafficking and transnational organized crime, utilizing the Border Liaison Office network; initiatives to examine new money-laundering risks; and the exchange of experiences between opium producing communities in Lao PDR and Myanmar that have started production of legal replacement products like coffee.
We have significant alternative development success stories to share. Star products like Royal Project Coffee from Thailand and Shan Mountain Coffee from Myanmar are known well beyond the region's borders.
We have also been working with Mekong MOU countries to advance community-based prevention, treatment and rehabilitation in national health systems.
We need to maintain this momentum to effectively address the drug situation in the region. There are several upcoming opportunities which we should seize.
In July, senior officials of Mekong countries and UNODC will meet in Cambodia to discuss and report on activities taking place in each country to implement the Plan, and chart the way forward. This will set the stage for further developing collaboration, and for the 2021 Ministerial Meeting to be held in Beijing.
Ladies and gentlemen,
UNODC is committed to supporting the efforts of the Mekong region in the next phase of our joint action.
I believe that the lessons learned from the Mekong MOU experience, with its holistic approach and focus on exchanges of best practices, could serve as inspiration in other areas of the world and strengthen South-South cooperation.
I encourage the Mekong MOU countries to continue advancing their cooperation, and pledge UNODC's continued support. I call on all our international partners to join us by supporting UNODC regional and country programmes that will help realize the aims of the Mekong MOU Action Plan.