Drug cartels adapted to the pandemic . . .
A new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) reveals that drug production and trafficking surged in 2020. While the COVID-19 pandemic stifled Asia’s economy, Asian drug cartels thrived by pushing supply to build a higher demand for drugs. Drug cartels took advantage of the decrease of drug seizures in East and Southeast Asia during the pandemic's peak last year, “demonstrating the flexibility of organized crime groups to adapt to change and take advantage of porous borders in the region.” In South Korea, drug-related crimes rose by 12.5 per cent from a year before through the accessibility of the dark web and social networking sites.
Five lower Mekong countries account for most of the increases . . .
Increased meth production mainly manifested in Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar, making up 71 per cent of the total seizures. During the pandemic, cartels discovered new locations to manufacture drugs using less-regulated chemicals and began shipping drugs through new routes. The UN report points out that the massive supply of cheap meth allowed crime groups to lower their prices, fuelling a surge in drug users. Jeremy Douglas, the UNODC regional representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, fears that drug cartels may take advantage of Myanmar’s current state of instability to expand their businesses. With allegations of Myanmar militias and warlords funding themselves through the drug trade, drug-related crimes may further intensify this year.
Canada’s other health crisis . . .
Not only does the expansion of illicit drug use affect people in Asia, but it also continues to devastate many Canadians. Since 2016, 20,000 Canadians have passed away from drug overdoses. Canada’s opioid crisis has worsened through the pandemic due to toxic drug supplies and a drop in people visiting drug injection facilities, treatment clinics, and overdose prevention sites over fears of COVID-19. As drug trade is also a transpacific challenge, Asia Watch will continue to monitor related responses and initiatives.
- CNN: Meth production surged in Asia as economy faltered due to Covid-19, report says
- The Globe and Mail: The high and growing death toll from drug overdoses – Canada’s other public health crisis
- United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime: Synthetic Drugs in East and Southeast Asia: Latest Developments and Challenges 2021