Emerging trends and concerns

  • Crystalline methamphetamine manufacture, trafficking and use remains the most significant drug threat in Malaysia.
  • Seizure and arrest data indicate an increasing demand for methamphetamine pills originating from Myanmar.
  • 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’ pills.

Overview of the drug situation

The trafficking of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) into Malaysia for domestic use and as a transit location for international markets remains a problem. A large share of the crystalline methamphetamine trafficked to Malaysia is perceived to originate from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Significant quantities of crystalline methamphetamine and ‘ecstasy’ are also manufactured domestically in clandestine laboratories, and transnational drug trafficking groups continue in their attempts to expand crystalline methamphetamine manufacture in Malaysia. In addition, there is continued illicit nimetazepam manufacture in Malaysia and illicit cultivation of the local plant kratom.

Heroin remains the primary drug of use in Malaysia, while ATS continue to be the most commonly used drug type among new drug users and drug users arrested for the first time. In 2013, crystalline methamphetamine and heroin were the most commonly used drugs among persons in drug treatment. The non-medical / recreational use of ketamine and nimetazepam are also of concern.

Table 1. Trend in use of selected drugs in Malaysia, 2009-2013

The most commonly used new psychoactive substances (NPS) in Malaysia continue to be ketamine and kratom. There is continued illicit kratom cultivation in the country. Most of the ketamine found in Malaysia is smuggled from southern India. 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 2013, crystalline methamphetamine seizures in Malaysia doubled to approximately 1.7 tons compared with 852 kg seized in 2012. The quantity of crystalline methamphetamine seized since 2009 has been substantially higher than the quantities seized in previous years, which is likely due 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 greater interdiction efforts by law enforcement agencies. Methamphetamine pill seizures in 2013 (524,967 pills) remained relatively stable compared with the previous year. Liquid methamphetamine also continues to be seized in Malaysia, and some 80 kg of liquid methamphetamine were seized in 2013. ‘Ecstasy’ pills seizures decreased by about half (49%) to 395,984 pills in 2013. However, the 772,421 pills seized in 2012 were the highest total reported in the past decade. In 2013, approximately 655 kg of ecstasy powder was seized.

Table 2. Seizures of selected drugs in Malaysia, 2009-2013

In 2013, a total of 26 clandestine ATS manufacturing facilities were dismantled in Malaysia, including 18 crystalline methamphetamine laboratories and eight ecstasy pill laboratories. In recent years, Malaysia has also seized a number of facilities which were illicitly manufacturing ketamine, nimetazepam (Erimin 5) and highly adulterated low-purity heroin.

Large quantities of methamphetamine are also smuggled into the country, primarily by drug trafficking groups based in the Islamic Republic of Iran; however, the number of Iranian nationals arrested for drug-related offences has declined in recent years. Recent indicators suggest that Iranian nationals are also involved in methamphetamine manufacture in Malaysia. In 2012, nine Iranian nationals were arrested in three separate cases of illicit methamphetamine manufacture. Most of the methamphetamine pills and some of the crystalline methamphetamine found in Malaysia continues to originate from Myanmar, a portion of which is smuggled into Malaysia via Thailand.  

West African (primarily Nigerian) drug trafficking groups traffic ecstasy, heroin and cocaine into and through Malaysia by using air passenger couriers and sea cargo consignments. They also send cocaine to Malaysia in parcel post for further trafficking to markets in Asia and the Pacific. Nigerian drug trafficking groups are also involved in the smuggling of cannabis overland from Thailand into Malaysia.

The primary markets for illicit drugs trafficked through Malaysia to international markets include Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea.