The synthetic drug trade in Asia is roaring to “extreme levels,” with crime groups establishing new trafficking routes to evade enforcement crackdowns and methamphetamine prices hitting fresh lows, according to a new report released, Jessie Yeung reported for CNN.
Photo Insert: Asia’s drug cartels generate billions through the global narcotics trade while generating a fraction of the attention of their counterparts in Latin and Central America.
The research by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found that meth seizures in East and Southeast Asia, which spiked to record highs during the pandemic as cartels switched to bigger and riskier bulk shipments, returned to pre-COVID numbers last year.
The supply has remained very high or unchanged, the report said. As pandemic border closures and travel restrictions began lifting, international criminal rings began reconnecting, with “late 2022 and early 2023 patterns starting to look similar to 2019,” said Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
There are other signs of the drug trade bouncing back. West African trafficking networks in East and Southeast Asia, which “all but disappeared” during the pandemic, have now resumed their activities, the report said.
“The most powerful regional trafficking networks are able to operate with a high degree of certainty they can and will not be stopped, and they are able to dictate the terms and conditions of the market as a result,” the report warned.
Asia’s drug cartels generate billions through the global narcotics trade while generating a fraction of the attention of their counterparts in Latin and Central America, in part because they keep a much lower profile and are less prone to bouts of internecine warfare.