October 2, 2018 / 5:27 AM / 13 days ago

Oversupply of drugs in Mekong, East Asia puts younger users at risk, U.N. says

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Production and trafficking of illicit drugs have reached unprecedented levels in Southeast Asia’s Mekong region and East Asia, the United Nations said on Tuesday, warning that oversupply increases the risks for younger users.

FILE PHOTO: Thai narcotics officials put bags of methamphetamine pills into a bin during the 48th Destruction of Confiscated Narcotics ceremony in Ayutthaya province, Thailand, June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/Files

Even as authorities seize larger amounts of illicit drugs, oversupply pushes down prices, bringing some, such as methamphetamine, within reach, an official of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said.

FILE PHOTO: Thai police officers unload seized drugs from a vehicle in a police station in Bangkok, Thailand August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/Files

“The supply keeps growing as organized crime is ramping up supply and flooding the region with product,” Jeremy Douglas, the body’s regional representative, told Reuters ahead of a meeting in the Thai capital to assess the trends.

In Thailand, for instance, the price of a methamphetamine tablet ranged between $1.5 and $4.5 in 2017, down from a range of $4 to $7 in 2014, UN data this year showed.

In the wealthy nearby city-state of Singapore, prices fell to below $6 in 2017, from $20 in 2014.

FILE PHOTO: Thai soldiers stand guard at Ban Kaen Kai operation base on the Mekong river at the border between Thailand and Laos March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/Files

“The surge in ‘yaba’ tablet supply has pushed street prices down across the region, making them affordable by younger users who are being introduced to the drug,” Douglas added, using a Thai term for the tablet form of methamphetamine.

Police seized more than 14 million meth pills worth $45 million in one of Thailand’s biggest drug busts in August.

Neighboring Malaysia made its largest seizure of crystal meth in May, intercepting nearly 1.2 tonnes of the drug disguised as tea in a shipment from Myanmar.

Much of Southeast Asia’s meth production comes from lawless parts of Myanmar, in particular Shan State, the UNODC said in 2017.

Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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