September 12, 2005

U.N. says amphetamine-type abuse rising in Asia

By Manny Mogato

MANILA (Reuters) - Traffickers have been shifting to the
manufacture of amphetamine-type drugs in Asia as cultivation
and production of heroin drops sharply, a senior United Nations
official said on Monday.

Akira Fujino, head of the Bangkok-based U.N. Office on
Drugs and Crime, said there had been an alarming increase in
abuse of "shabu" and ecstasy in Southeast Asia over the last
few years, as shown by a rise in the number of narcotics
laboratories found.

"There's an increasingly serious problem in amphetamines in
Southeast Asia because they do not require any agricultural
production," Fujino told Manila-based foreign correspondents.

"All you need to do is get the starting materials and then
any urban laboratory can be established anywhere in the world,
small or otherwise big factories."

He said China and Myanmar were the world's top makers of
amphetamine-type stimulants.

Of the estimated 400 metric tons they make in total each
year, three quarters was the methamphetamine known as "shabu"
or ice and one quarter was ecstasy pills.

But Fujino said increased law enforcement and other
counter-measures had forced traffickers to move laboratories to
countries such as the Philippines and Fiji.

In the Philippines, at least 11 clandestine laboratories
making "shabu" have been dismantled in the last two years,
netting about 3.1 metric tons in 2003 or 10 percent of the
total worldwide seizures of the drug.

Fujino said the value of the global illicit drug market in
2003 was estimated at $13 billion at the production level, $94
billion at the wholesale level and $322 billion at the retail
level -- after taking seizures and other losses into account.

Marijuana remained the largest market with an estimated
retail size of $113 billion, followed by cocaine at $71 billion
and amphetamines at $44 billion.

Fujino said there had been anecdotal reports from several
areas that money from the sale of opium and cocaine was used in
past terror attacks.

Although cultivation and production of opium in Afghanistan
declined in early 2005, the United Nations said in a recent
report narcotics from that country still found their way to
Europe, a clear sign that there was sufficient and rising

While coca cultivation has risen in Bolivia and Peru,
production of opium in Southeast Asia, particularly in the
so-called "Golden Triangle" region, has declined by as much as
78 percent from its peak in 1996, the U.N. report said.