BANGKOK: Malaysia is at the crossroads of becoming a major market for amphetaminetype stimulants (ATS), according to a new report.
Large amounts are trafficked into the country, in addition to large scale domestic manufacture, said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Centre for East Asia and the Pacific.
The "2009 Patterns and Trends of ATS and Other Drugs in East and South-East Asia" report released here yesterday said there was an increase in methamphetamine seizures in Malaysia.
Last year, 12 clandestine ATS laboratory operations were uncovered, as compared to nine the previous year.
Drawing a parallel with Indonesia, UNODC's Deepika Naruka said it was possible for Malaysia to follow the pattern observed in the neighbouring country over the past three years, in which large seizures and the uncovering of manufacturing operations of ATS were followed by increased use.
"Malaysia has very large ATS manufacturing operations from 2004 onwards and very large ATS seizures from 2006. It's a worrying trend as Indonesia has the similar trend and is now a big user of ATS," said the Regional Coordinator (East Asia) for UNODC's Global SMART Programme.
According to UNODC officials, Indonesia, which used to obtain its supply of party drugs like ecstasy from Europe, was now emerging as a major supply source due to its proximity to Australia and New Zealand where these substances are the second most consumed drug.
UNODC said Malaysian authorities had seized considerable amounts of trafficked methamphetamine and ecstasy each year, and confiscated some of the largest clandestine ATS manufacturing facilities in the world, including five in the first three months of this year.
Based on data from Malaysia, the main problematic drugs in Malaysia have been heroin and morphine, with the total estimate of the number of drug users varying from between 350,000 and 500,000.
Deepika said Thailand had the largest methamphetamine pill market in the region with soaring demand, while Malaysia and Vietnam were among the emerging markets.
Gary Lewis, UNODC Representative for East Asia and the Pacific, said while traditional illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine had been contained, the use of synthetic drugs was on the rise.
"We have to warn the younger generation because now it's being used not only for recreational purpose, but to keep them awake. It's related to economic growth in the region, but the danger is high," he said.