UN Wants Australia to Take Lead Against Asian Drug Traffic

08 August, 2016

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

United Nations officials say they have recently seen an increase in the production of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) in Southeast Asia. ATS drugs – such as Ecstasy or methamphetamines – are on the rise in Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

Officials are concerned because the area has long been known as a center for heroin trafficking. But unlike heroin, which is grown from plants, ATS drugs can be very easy and inexpensive to make. They can also be highly addictive.

Myanmar police officers examine a pile of drugs during a 'Destruction Ceremony of Seized Narcotic Drugs' held to mark the International Day against Drug Abuse in Yangon, Myanmar, 26 June 2016. (EPA/NYEIN CHAN NAING)
Myanmar police officers examine a pile of drugs during a 'Destruction Ceremony of Seized Narcotic Drugs' held to mark the International Day against Drug Abuse in Yangon, Myanmar, 26 June 2016. (EPA/NYEIN CHAN NAING)

How much drugs are we talking about?

In 2015, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported seizures of about 27,000 kilograms of methamphetamine chunks and 286 million methamphetamine pills in the area. Seizures of chemicals needed to produce such drugs are also increasing.

Methamphetamine has many street names, or nicknames. It is often known as "crystal meth" or simply "meth." In some parts of Asia it is called "ice."

Australia and New Zealand

Jeremy Douglas is a representative for the Asia area of the UNODC. He says Asian criminal organizations are starting to produce high purity crystal meth to sell in Australia and New Zealand. The organizations are targeting those countries because many people there have high incomes and use drugs.

Douglas says officials are "seizing large amounts of crystal meth" at Australia's borders, airports and ports.

In an interview with a VOA reporter in Bangkok, Douglas warned that the amount of ATS drugs across Asia is a "big, big concern." He added that currently Asia is being flooded with the "highly addictive crystal meth."

International task forces to combat drug trafficking

Since late 2015, Australia's Federal Police have signed agreements with China and Thailand to combat drug trafficking into Australia. These cooperative agreements are often called task forces.

Australia's Federal Police chief commissioner Andrew Colvin said the task force agreements are very important. He adds that bringing security to these Asian areas is in the best interest of Australia's domestic health.

Colvin said the new task force with Thailand will focus on "human trafficking, money laundering, counter-narcotics in particular."

Thai narcotics officials and the UNODC say Australia's operational experience in fighting drug smuggling can benefit its neighbors in the Association of South East Asian Nations.

Officials point out that increased trade and looser border restrictions under the ASEAN Economic Community create opportunities for organized crime to move drugs and drug-making chemicals more easily across borders.

UNODC's Douglas agrees that Australian law enforcement could play a larger role in supporting the area's efforts to fight drug trafficking. He said U.N. support can help overcome any political difficulties that may happen.

He says that the agreement between Thailand and Australia is "great." He says the UNODC encourages that kind of agreement. But for this to work, he adds, this effort "needs to involve many, many countries at one time."

I'm Anna Matteo.

Ron Corben wrote this article for VOA News from Bangkok, Thailand. Anna Matteo adapted it for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.


Words in This Story

amphetamine n. a drug that causes the nervous system to become more active so that a person feels more energy and mental excitement

stimulantn. something (such as a drug) that makes you more active or gives you more energy

street name n. an informal term for something, especially an illegal drug

purity n. the quality or state of being pure

flood - v. to fill abundantly or excessively <flood the market>

task force n. a group of people who deal with a specific problem

counter-narcotics prefix as a reaction against

smuggling v. to move (someone or something) from one country into another illegally and secretly