Emerging trends and concerns
- The manufacture, trafficking and use of crystalline methamphetamine remain a significant drug threat in Malaysia.
- Seizures of methamphetamine tablets originating from the Golden Triangle have stabilized in recent years, but remain at high levels.
- Transnational drug trafficking groups are increasingly targeting Malaysia as both a destination and transit country for methamphetamine and other illicit drugs, as well as for the manufacture of crystalline methamphetamine and MDMA for “ecstasy”1 tablets. In addition, Malaysian national authorities dismantled the first ever ketamine manufacturing facility in the country in 2016.
- In recent years, increasing amounts of heroin from Afghanistan have been trafficked into the country via the Islamic Republic of Iran or Pakistan.
Overview of the drug situation
The trafficking of methamphetamine into Malaysia for domestic use and the use of the country as a transit location remain a problem. Transnational drug trafficking groups, mainly from China, Myanmar, West Africa, South Asia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, have been involved in supplying methamphetamine to the illicit drug market in Malaysia. In addition, significant quantities of crystalline methamphetamine and “ecstasy” are also manufactured domestically in clandestine laboratories.
While heroin remains the most commonly used drug in Malaysia, the number of treatment admissions for the use of amphetamines has been increasing in recent years. The total number of drug treatment admissions in 2015 was 6,032 . Of this total, 71% (4,287) were admitted for opiates. In 2015, a total of 1,571 treatment admissions were related to the use of amphetamines, accounting for 26% of the total and about a 47% increase compared to 2014 (839 admissions). Methamphetamine in crystalline form accounted for 77% (1,213 admissions) of the amphetamines-related treatment admissions in 2015. The non-medical use of ketamine and nimetazepam is also of concern in Malaysia.
Table 1. Trend in use of selected drugs in Malaysia, 2011-2015*
The quantity of crystalline methamphetamine seized over the period 2009-2015 in Malaysia has been substantially higher than the quantities seized between 2004 and 2008 when an average of 135 kg of crystalline methamphetamine were seized in Malaysia per annum. Since 2009, the annual average amount seized increased nearly nine-fold to 1,177 kg. This steep surge in seizures of crystalline methamphetamine is likely due to the increasing use of Malaysia by transnational drug trafficking groups as a transit country for methamphetamine destined to other markets in Asia and Oceania, as well as the increasing local demand in the country. According to the preliminary figures from national authorities, approximately 650 kg of crystalline methamphetamine and 1,215 kg of methamphetamine in liquid form, were seized in 2016. Methamphetamine in liquid form refers to methamphetamine in solution before crystallization, and this is typically encountered during seizures of clandestine laboratories. This indicates that semi-finished methamphetamine products are trafficked for conversion and refinement in the country.
Seizures of methamphetamine tablets originating from the Golden Triangle have stabilized in recent years, but remain at high levels. More than 500,000 methamphetamine tablets have been seized in the country each year since 2012. Large quantities of “ecstasy” tablets as well as sizable amounts of “ecstasy” in powder form, continue to be seized in Malaysia in recent years. In 2015, more than 400,000 “ecstasy” tablets were seized in the country.
Malaysian authorities continue to dismantle ATS manufacturing facilities in the country. In 2015, a total of 23 ATS manufacturing facilities were dismantled in Malaysia: 16 for crystalline methamphetamine manufacturing facilities and 7 for “ecstasy” tablet tableting facilities (respectively 12 and 5 in 2014).
Table 2. Seizures of selected drugs in Malaysia, 2011-2015
Between January and mid-August 2016, Malaysian authorities dismantled 14 synthetic drug manufacturing facilities, including the first ever clandestine ketamine laboratory found in the country. The seized illicit ketamine manufacturing facility was large scale and several Indian nationals were charged in connection with this case.
A large share of the methamphetamine trafficked into Malaysia is perceived to originate from China via Hong Kong, China, and from Myanmar via Thailand. In 2016, several shipments of methamphetamine originating from China were seized in Malaysia, including 120.7 kg trafficked from Guangzhou, China, by air cargo. Malaysia has also been targeted by transnational criminal groups trafficking methamphetamine from West Africa to Asia, often with the involvement of Nigerian nationals. For instance, two Nigerian nationals were arrested for trafficking of 20.8 kg of crystalline methamphetamine sourced from Guangzhou, China, in April 2016. In 2015, a total of 139 Nigerian nationals were arrested for drug-related offences. In addition, these groups are also involved in trafficking of other drug types, including cocaine, cannabis and heroin into Malaysia.
There has been a decline in the trafficking of crystalline methamphetamine by Iranian groups based in Malaysia. The authorities attribute this decline to the large number of arrests of Iranian nationals by the Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department, NCID, of the Royal Malaysian Police for drug-related offences in recent years (27 in 2015, 27 in 2014, 37 in 2013 and 52 in 2012). However, recent reports suggested that Iranian nationals are not only involved in trafficking of crystalline methamphetamine to Malaysia but also in its manufacture in Malaysia. For instance, national authorities arrested eight men, including two Iranian nationals, and seized 34 kg of high purity crystalline methamphetamine and 239 kg of methamphetamine in liquid form from a methamphetamine manufacturing site, located in Perak, Malaysia, in June 2016. Transnational groups based in India and Pakistan have also been involved in trafficking of illicit drugs, including methamphetamine, ketamine and heroin, into Malaysia.
The most commonly used new psychoactive substances (NPS) in Malaysia continue to be ketamine and kratom. Seizures of kratom have been on a steep rise in recent years in Malaysia, and in 2015, the amounts reached nearly 29 metric tons (mt), a two-fold increase compared to 2014 (15.5 mt).
Ketamine seizures and ketamine-related arrests have decreased significantly over the past five years, while kratom related seizures and arrests have increased. Malaysia has also reported the seizure and use of piperazines (since 2010), khat (since 2010), synthetic cathinones (2013) and synthetic cannabinoids (since 2014). In recent years, several tablets sold as “ecstasy” but containing a wide range of synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones were found in the country. Some of the substances found in these tablets include methylone, MDPV, mephedrone, AM-2201 and JWH-081.
While the purity of crystalline methamphetamine has been stable between 70% and 80% of methamphetamine since 2013, the prices have dropped recently. The retail price of 1 kg of crystalline methamphetamine in 2014 and 2015 was estimated at USD 29,000, a significant decrease (40%) compared to the price reported in three preceding years (USD 49,000). , The retail price of 1 methamphetamine tablet in 2015 was USD 5, a decrease of 50 % compared to the price reported in the three preceding years (USD 10 per tablet)., According to the Royal Malaysian Police, these significant decreases in the price of both forms of methamphetamine could be due to price decreases in some source countries.