Asian drug chiefs unite to chip away at “ice” abuse
By Reuters Asia – 23 May, 2002
Copyright: Reuters Asia
BEIJING (Reuters) – Asian drug officials said on Wednesday they planned to expand intelligence sharing and drug abuse programmes in China and Southeast Asia to stem a growing tide of trafficking in the party-drugs “ice” and “ecstasy”.
The senior officials from China, five Asian countries and the United Nations said they also pledged at the meeting in Beijing to root out plant and chemical drug precursors used to make the stimulants which are increasingly popular at nightclubs and rave parties across Asia.
Talks between the drug officials have traditionally focused on the rampant trade of heroin in the so-called “Golden Triangle” area — spanning Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.
But they are turning more on the fast-emerging problem of amphetamine-type substances (ATS), said an official from the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP).
“Methamphetamines are the new challenge,” he said on the sidelines during the final day of a three-day meeting. “It’s a new epidemic and it’s spreading”.
Methamphetamines and amphetamines are stimulant drugs commonly referred to as uppers and speed and include “ice” and “ecstasy”.
Thailand, ridden with “ice” and “ecstasy” abuse, wants more effort to control demand for the substances, said Deputy Secretary-General of Thailand’s Narcotics Control Board Rasamee Vistaveth.
“It’s a drug for pleasure, for entertainment, for group gathering rather than heroin which is a kind of depressant,” she said.
“If we can control the precursors and essential chemicals quite well, then it would help decrease or stop the production of the amphetamines,” she said.
But compared to the opium trade, which radiates from the “Golden Triangle”, ATS are more difficult to track, the UNDCP official said.
“Methamphetamines can be made with equipment that I could put in the boot of my car,” he said.
Much of the region’s “ice” and “ecstasy” is mixed in China.
Beijing has stepped up a crackdown on drugs as sweeping economic reforms have boosted incomes and caused the number of known drug addicts to rocket in recent years.
A top Chinese drug official said on Monday that traffickers from Shanghai to Guangdong province who colluded with regional cartels were using legal pharmaceutical laboratories as a front to run drug rackets.
Ephedra plants cultivated in northwestern China were the source for most of the country’s “ecstasy” drugs, manufactured in tablet form, and crystallised “ice”, the UNDCP official said.
By contrast, the ATS entering Myanmar from India was made from sugar cane converted into molasses, he said.
The UNDCP official said ATS samples found in Myanmar showed China had made major strides in terms of seizures in the last year but that India lagged behind.
The Myanmar authorities have handed over to China a handful of key Chinese drug lords caught in the Golden Triangle in the last eight to 12 months, demonstrating the success of U.N.-organised liaison offices, he said.
“Cooperation between China and Myanmar is increasing,” he said. “It’s new and it’s a success story.”