Shabu in Southeast Asia at record high – U.N.

MANILA, Philippines – Methamphetamine (shabu) production in Southeast Asia has hit a record high, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found in its latest report released on Monday, March 11.

“Data on seizures, prices, use, and treatment all point to continuing expansion of the methamphetamine market in East and Southeast Asia," said UNODC Inter-regional Programme Coordinator Tun Nay Soe.

He added: "Seizures of methamphetamine in 2018 were once again a record, yet street prices of the drug decreased in many parts of the region indicating very high and increasing levels of availability.” 

According to a tally they released, at least 116 tons of shabu were seized in the region in 2018, representing a threefold increase since 2013. (READ: Southeast Asian nations torch $1-B of seized drugs)

RAPID RISE. The UNODC tallies shabu seizures across Southeast Asia. UNODC graph

RAPID RISE. The UNODC tallies shabu seizures across Southeast Asia.

UNODC graph


Where most of the increase happened: According to the UNODC, a bulk of the increase came from Southeast Asian countries where the Mekong River passes: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

"In Thailand alone 515 million methamphetamine tablets were seized in 2018 – 17 times the total amount of the drug seized a decade ago," the UNODC said in its statement.

The drugs, according to Secretary General Niyom Termsrisuk of Thailand's Office of Narcotics Control Board, came from the Golden Triangle, the historic drug cultivation area where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos meet.

In the Philippines, where an internationally covered "drug war" has been waged, the lead anti-drug office, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, reports that around 655.47 kilograms of shabu were seized in 2018.

It's not clear, however, if these are the figures that were used by the UN office report, as the full report has yet to be published. – 


Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.