CHIANG RAIÂ – Thai Justice Minister, General Paiboon Koomchaya, has called on Australia, among other countries, to back regional drug suppression operations amid United Nations warnings of an expanding regional synthetic drug market.
The call for funding comes after Southeast Asian nations, along with China, have stepped up co-operation to halt drug smuggling networks under a program entitled Safe Mekong Joint Operations.
Thailand recently reported the joint operations had destroyed a major drug smuggling group running 26 networks across the region.
Paiboon said cash donations especially from Australia, South Korea, Japan, German and the United States, would be sought to purchase equipment for drug suppression operations.
The call comes as the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warns of an expanding synthetic drug market in East and Southeast Asia.
“Alarmingly, high purity crystal methamphetamine is increasingly available in the region, with seizures up nearly five times over the last five years,” the UNODC said.
Seizures of crystal methamphetamine in East and Southeast Asia in 2015 hit a historic high point exceeding 30 tonnes, while countries such as Laos reported record seizures amid warnings seizure levels in 2016 “are likely to increase yet again”.
UNODC Asia Pacific chief representative Jeremy Douglas told AAP while most can financially support the programs, nations such as Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar “need targeted assistance of different kinds”.
Douglas also warned the expanding synthetic drug market (Methamphetamines, Yaba) in the region represented “a significant human security challenge that is straining limited government capacities” region wide.
The UNODC said the region was facing an increase in production and trafficking of new psychoactive substances (NPS) – synthetic drugs not yet covered by international control agreements but which mimic the effects of existing illicit drugs.
A spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said Australia was working closely with Thailand and Southeast Asian nations in support of drug suppression programs.
Australia was involved in the Safe Mekong Operation, “regional taskforces, capacity building, including the provision of training and provision of relevant equipment,” the spokesperson said.