What COVID-19? Synthetic drug trade thrives in Mekong Region

It has been quick to spot opportunities and reduce risks, thriving despite COVID-19. In its own brand of regional integration, it has been connecting the dots across the lower Mekong region as it carves out new ways to cross borders and reach its customers in the most efficient ways.

An example of a resilient business model in hard times? Indeed, except that this describes how the synthetic drug industry has been expanding in East and Southeast Asia, home to the Mekong region that is the manufacturing and trafficking hub that supplies illicit drugs that reach not just the wider Asia but the globe.

“COVID-19 has had very, very limited impact and especially in the Mekong region, we don’t see much impact of COVID-19,” Inshik Sim, drug programme analyst for Southeast Asia and the Pacific for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said at a June discussion around a report on the synthetic drug situation. “It shows the flexibility of the organised crime groups that have been able to successfully supply methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs into Southeast Asia.”

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Johanna Son, Reporting ASEAN