MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines, Thailand and Laos are the countries with the highest prevalence of amphetamines use in East and Southeast Asia, according to the latest annual report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The UNODC World Drug Report 2010 said significant increases in methamphetamine seizures were noted in the Philippines and Malaysia.
The Philippines also reported 10 clandestine laboratories manufacturing methamphetamine in 2008, and a concurrent increase in the price of methamphetamine hydrochloride.
Recent data from the Philippines (2.1 percent, 2008), Thailand (1.4 percent, 2007) and Laos (1.4 percent, 2008) placed the three countries in the highest annual prevalence of amphetamines-group substance use in East and Southeast Asia.
The report said global methamphetamine seizures remained stable for the fourth year in a row, amounting to 18.2 metric tons (mt) in 2007 and 19.3 mt in 2008. East and Southeast Asia and North America, notably the United States, continued to account for the vast majority of methamphetamine seizures.
In 2008, total methamphetamine seizures in East and Southeast Asia remained stable at 10.7 mt.
The World Customs Organization reported that in 2008, Thailand was the most frequent destination country in the Asia-Pacific region among methamphetamine seizure cases recorded in the Customs Enforcement Network database. In particular, 157 seizures were made on the route from Laos to Thailand.
The majority (99 percent) of the detected clandestine synthetic drug laboratories process amphetamine-type stimulants, primarily the amphetamine group substances methamphetamine, amphetamine, methcathinone and ecstasy-group substances.
UNODC executive director Antonio Maria Costa said the World Drug Report 2010 shows the various components of the drug market, and explains the dynamics that drive them.
The report also confirms that drug policy must stay the course promoted at UNODC over the past years, focused on the four basic rights of health, development, security and human rights.
According to the report, indicators suggest increased availability and use of methamphetamine throughout East and Southeast Asia.
All countries in East and Southeast Asia already reported methamphetamine as the primary drug of use, either in tablet form (yaba) or high purity crystalline form, with increasing use levels in 2008.
Increases in arrests and seizures also point to a significant growth in the availability of methamphetamine tablets on the market.
The significant growth seen in the amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) market over the past decade has been fueled by increased involvement by criminal organizations, which have the ability to respond to market pressures on a corporate level.
They are able to quickly retool manufacturing processes, develop new products, source new precursor chemicals and disguise their intentions by using complex supply routes for sourcing the required chemicals.
Industrialized operations with production cycles in the hundreds and now thousands of kilograms dictate the involvement of organized crime, and have become more commonplace among developing countries with examples in Fiji, Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico and the Philippines, among others, the report said.
Globally, UNODC estimates that between 155 and 250 million people (3.5 to 5.7 percent of the population aged 15-64) used illicit substances at least once in 2008.
Globally, cannabis users comprise the largest number of illicit drug users. Amphetamine group substances rank as the second most commonly used drug, followed by cocaine and opiates.
Ecstasy has been associated with the dance club scene, initially located primarily in the Anglophone countries, but later expanding throughout Europe, the Americas, the Oceania region and many parts of East and Southeast Asia.
Ecstasy is becoming important in many parts of the developing world, including Asia, while it seems to be leveling off or declining in Europe.
The report also presented drug traffickers operate with a large and varied pool of couriers.
These may be Filipinos, Indonesians, Pakistanis and Chinese nationals but also West Africans, the report said.
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