Southeast Asian Drug Markets Are Booming Amidst The Coronavirus Pandemic

Though most markets are suffering drastic losses due to the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic, there is one business that has been booming during the crisis: the drug industry. The United Nations' drug crimes agency released a report on Friday that detailed the alarming growth of the seedy trade, in addition to how its leaders are taking advantage of the pandemic to both consolidate power and expand.

"It is hard to imagine that organized crime have again managed to expand the drug market, but they have," said Jeremy Douglas, UNODC representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, in a written statement, according to Radio Free Asia.

"While the world has shifted its attention to the COVID-19 pandemic, all indications are that production and trafficking of synthetic drugs and chemicals continue at record levels in the region," he added.

One of the most alarming statistics provided by the Office on Drugs and Crime was the claim that supplies of synthetic opioids had drastically risen by more than 900 percent over the past five years.

Meanwhile, the price of methamphetamines has dropped to its lowest level in the past decade, indicating widespread availability, likely due to increased production and investment that drug makers have put into the industry.

"The factor that has made methamphetamine prices cheaper is that both production technology and capacity have been improved," explained Major General Yingyos Thepjumnong, deputy commander of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau of the Royal Thai Police.

The drug business has appeared to become particularly active around the Golden Triangle, the area where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong rivers. The remote region already suffered from limited government control before the pandemic, the UNODC said. However, with the COVID-19 crisis monopolizing government attention, the drug markets have almost no threat of government oversight.

heroin users
Getty Images | Paula Bronstein

Moreover, in an interesting turn of events, drug smugglers are taking advantage of the growth of mail and online ordering.

"We may not see large-sized smuggling operations because there are a lot of checkpoints during COVID-19," said Major General Thepjumnong.

"But they have come in like an army of ants with easy access to the center of the city and [deliveries] via parcel post. It has become a new problem now," he warned.

Meanwhile, the United States may be taking the opposite approach to the war on drugs during the COVID-19 pandemic. As was previously reported by The Inquisitr, leading financial writer David Jagielski suggested that the country may potentially legalize marijuana to aid in economic recovery.