'Ice' drug seizures nearly double in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 November, 2013, 4:37am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 November, 2013, 4:37am

Seizures of the clubbers' drug "crystal meth" almost doubled in Hong Kong last year.

A report released yesterday showed the haul of the dangerous synthetic drug - full name crystalline methamphetamine and also nicknamed Ice - rose 91 per cent to 73.2kg.

Synthetic drugs-related arrests totalled 970, the highest level for a decade and up by a third from 2011.

The report, commissioned by the United Nations, also revealed that the market for methamphetamine pills is booming throughout China.

"There is large demand [for drugs] and there is a large young population in the region," said Jeremy Douglas, the Bangkok-based regional representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

"If you look ahead, we don't see the situation getting better."

In the report the UNODC documented a peak year in drug production and use, with opium poppy cultivation in Southeast Asia continuing to increase over the past six years.

Since 2011, the total cultivated area increased by a fifth to 58,000 hectares in the Golden Triangle, the lawless border area shared by Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, according to the report.

But Douglas also sees a troubling shift towards synthetic drugs. While opiates are associated with older drug users, "the surge in youth drug use will be in synthetics," he said. A total of 227 million methamphetamine pills were seized in East and Southeast Asia last year, said the report.

That is 59 per cent more than a year earlier and seven times more than in 2008.

Most of the pills were seized on the mainland, where the haul rose by a quarter to 102 million pills. In comparison, heroin seizures were relatively constant, increasing by just 2.9 per cent to 7.2 million tons.

While heroin and other opiate-related arrests in China were also relatively stagnant at more than 48,000 last year, meth-related arrests surged 68 per cent last year to more than 75,000, said the report.

The mainland's meth labs appear to be centred in Guangdong, where 288 out of the 326 labs busted last year were located.

Police also dismantled an industrial-scale meth lab in Hunan last year, arresting 14 including a Mexican.

For Douglas, the turn from opiates to meth brings new challenges to his job. "Unlike opium, this is highly mobile production. You can move it anywhere and set up in a house or a factory.

"Looking ahead, the data is pointing in the wrong direction."