UN says seizures of crystal meth and meth pills in Asia reach record highs in 2012

Seizures of crystal meth and methamphetamine pills reached record highs in East and Southeast Asia in 2012, with Myanmar retaining its status as a major supplier of the illicit drugs, the United Nations said Friday.

In its annual report on amphetamine-type stimulants in the region, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said that methamphetamines were the primary or secondary drug of choice in 13 of the 15 Asia-Pacific countries surveyed.

A total of 227 million methamphetamine pills were seized in the region last year — a 59 percent increase from 142 million a year earlier, the report said. It marked a more than seven-fold increase from 2008.

Many of the pills were seized in China (102.2 million), followed by Thailand (95.3 million) and Myanmar (18.2 million), the UNODC report said. In Thailand, the haul was nearly double the amount seized in 2011 and the second-largest ever recorded.

"Methamphetamine seizures reached record highs in 2012," the report said.

The 11.6 tons of crystal meth seized across the region was the highest in a decade and a 12 percent increase from the year before. It included record hauls in Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia and Brunei.

"Myanmar remains the primary source of methamphetamine pills found in the region," said the report, adding Myanmar continues to be "a major source" of the region's crystal meth, opium and heroin. Myanmar is also the world's second-largest producer of opium, after Afghanistan, accounting for about 10 percent of global production.

Part of the reason for the increase was rising demand and increased manufacturing in Myanmar and elsewhere, the report said.

The upsurge comes despite Myanmar's progress toward democratic reform since 2011, when the long-ruling military junta ceded power. The country's drug-producing hub is in eastern Shan State, a remote region near China and Thailand, where ethnic rebels have waged wars for decades and the government still has little control.

Myanmar's neighbors are its main markets. Up to 90 percent of the crystal meth seized last year in Thailand — and an estimated 90 percent of meth pills seized in China — came from Myanmar, the report said.

China is also the destination for most of Myanmar's heroin, the report said. Myanmar's cultivation of illegal opium increased for a sixth consecutive year in 2012. It rose by 17 percent to 51,000 hectares (126,000 acres), up from about 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) in 2011.

The report said there was a resurgence of ecstasy use in several Asian countries, with the number of ecstasy pills seized in 2012 more than tripling to 5.4 million pills, compared to 1.6 million in 2011. It was the highest level since 2007.