January 30, 2011

A new document, published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), reports that the manufacture, trafficking, and consumption of amphetamine-type stimulant (ATS) drugs in Myanmar, one of the largest countries in Southeast Asia, is worsening.

The East and Southeast Asia region comprises about 28 percent of the world’s population. It is also home to between 50 percent and 80 percent of the estimated total number of ATS users in the whole of Asia. Over the past decade, Myanmar has become a major producer of stimulants in the region, particularly methamphetamine pills. The new report, Myanmar: Situation Assessment on Amphetamine-Type Stimulants, notes that the availability and use of ATS is increasing and is a cause for concern. Moreover, the impact of methamphetamine and other ATS trafficked from Myanmar affects not only the country’s immediate neighbors but also parts of East and Southeast Asia.

The availability of data from Myanmar, according to the report, demonstrates the increased efforts by government agencies to tackle the drug problem. However, it cites several factors that impede progress toward effective and evidence-based responses, including lack of laws and policies conducive to dealing with synthetic drugs, not enough information sharing between relevant agencies, and a lack of consolidated information and focused research on ATS use.

Speaking at the launch of the report in Bangkok, Gary Lewis, UNODC regional representative for East Asian and the Pacific, noted that this first-of-its-kind assessment will provide a “clearer understanding of ATS in Myanmar, in order to design effective and evidence-informed responses.”