Huge increase in ATS seizures in India: UNODC

India reported a substantial increase in seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), up from 431 kg in 2018 to more than 2.2 tonnes in 2019, according to a latest report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on “Synthetic Drugs in East and Southeast Asia: Latest developments and challenges.”

While trafficking flows of methamphetamine tablets from the Golden Triangle (the area where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet) to Bangladesh continues, India has also reported increased seizures of ATS, most of which are suspected to be meth, in recent years.

Two explanations

Experts have suggested two explanations for the spike: first, a growth in trafficking of meth tablets from the Golden Triangle overland to Bangladesh, with some routes crossing India. Secondly, the use of a maritime trafficking routes from Myanmar along the Andaman Sea, some of which cross Indian territorial waters.

There has been a significant reduction in the amount of pseudoephedrine (meth precursor chemical), mainly in the form of pharmaceutical preparations seized in Myanmar. However, seizure of large quantities of solvents like sulphuric acid in northern Shan State in March this year, believed to originate from India, has confirmed continuing flows of chemicals from India to Myanmar.

The UNODC report warns that the synthetic drug market in the region continues to expand and diversify, and the price of particularly meth has dropped to the lowest level in a decade with the surge of supplies. This has in turn increased its affordability and therefore, use.

Key destination

In the context of trafficking from Myanmar, South Asia has become an important destination for meth tablets outside the Mekong region.

In 2019, the report says, seizures of meth tablets in Southeast Asia decreased for the first time in years, by a fifth, from 647 million to 511 million tablets, while that of crystalline meth continued to increase. Preliminary data show that at least 63 tonnes of the drugs were seized, more than 50% increase compared to 2018.

The Indian authorities seized 1,156 kg of crystalline meth in Nicobar Island, located at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, in September 2019. The drug was destined from Malaysia and Thailand, and concealed in distinctive teabag packaging used in the Golden Triangle, said the report.

According to UNODC’s latest assessment, the meth market in the region and neighbouring countries is as large as $61.4 billion annually. The total seizure was close to 1.2 lakh kg in 2019, which was lower than the 2018 figure.

Another synthetic drug, ketamine, is supplied to the East and Southeast Asia market. In May 2019, Indian authorities dismantled a clandestine ketamine laboratory in Bengaluru and arrested members of a syndicate involved in trafficking the drugs to Malaysia.

“Ecstasy,” yet another such drug, does not appear to be significant in the region, but there has been an increase in its seizure in several countries.

The number of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), including potent synthetic opioids, reported from the region has also increased steadily. By the end of 2019, 461 different NPS were reported by countries. There were only three synthetic opioids identified by 2014, but the number increased to 28 substances last year.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 12:47:15 PM |

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