December 13, 2012 00:00
By SUPALAK GANJANAKHUNDEE
Crime syndicates from Iran have emerged as a major force in trafficking methamphetamines to East and Southeast Asia, where meth is identified as the top threat, the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime said in a report released yesterday.
Seizures of methamphetamine pills have increased more than five-fold since 2007, the UNODC said, noting that amphetamine-type stimulants are now either the No 1 or No 2 illicit drug of choice in 13 out of 15 countries surveyed.
Iranian syndicates are moving a significant quantity of methamphetamine pills to Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Thailand, the report said.
Although Iranian authorities have undertaken measures over the past two decades to deter narcotics trafficking into their country from Afghanistan and Pakistan, the crime syndicates continued to move their products, either for domestic consumption or for export, according to UNODC Regional Representative Gary Lewis.
The Iranian drug operations are now focusing on Southeast and East Asia, due to high demand and potential profits, Lewis said.
“The average prices of methamphetamine pills in Malaysia, even after transportation, is five times more than |what you can get in Iran for that same pill. Profit is the main driver,” Lewis said at a press briefing.
Ease of immigration was one factor in bringing Iranian traffickers to the region, Lewis said. Iranians can travel to seven countries, including some in Southeast Asia, without pre-arrangement of a visa.
Many members of the Iranian drug gangs are poor and uneducated and thus unaware of the fact that they could face the death penalty for drug offences in the region, particularly in Malaysia and Indonesia, where a significant number of Iranians have been arrested, Lewis said.
West African drug traffickers, who used to deal primarily in cocaine and heroin, are also increasingly involved in meth. Trafficking of the pills by Africans was reported in Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, the report said.
The use of amphetamine-type stimulants increased in almost all Southeast Asian countries plus China and New Zealand.
Myanmar remains the top source of illicit methamphetamines in the region, and also is the top source of crystal meth, the report states.
Ecstasy trafficking has declined in recent years but remains a concern while a range of new psychoactive substances such as synthetic cannabinoids and piperazines have emerged, the report said.