Emerging trends and concerns
- Illicit methamphetamine manufacture remains a concern and methamphetamine pill pressing equipment and small-scale clandestine crystalline methamphetamine manufacturing operations continue to be seized.
- Crystalline methamphetamine use has expanded rapidly in Thailand during the past few years as indicated by the substantial increases in seizures, arrests and drug treatment admissions related to crystalline methamphetamine.
- Methamphetamine in pill form remains the primary drug of use in Thailand. All indicators suggest that the trafficking and use of methamphetamine pills increased in 2011.
- New psychoactive substances have been identified as an emerging concern.
Figure 1. Seizures of methamphetamine (pill and crystalline) in Thailand, 2000- 2011
Overview of the drug situation
The methamphetamine market in Thailand is one of the largest in the region. The trafficking and use of methamphetamine pills continues to be the top drug-related law enforcement and public health concern in Thailand. In addition, the market for the more potent and profitable crystalline form of the drug has grown rapidly during the past few years. In 2011, seizure, arrest and drug treatment data related to crystalline methamphetamine reached record levels. This reflects the increasing manufacture and trafficking from neighbouring Myanmar and the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as the growing demand among Thailand’s expanding drug user population.
Table 1. Trend in use of selected drugs in Thailand, 2007-2011
A large portion of the methamphetamine smuggled into Thailand is intended for the domestic market. However, considerable quantities are further trafficked to neighboring countries and smaller amounts are trafficked beyond the region. Drug criminal organizations continue to target Thailand as a transit hub for the smuggling of illicit drugs and their precursor chemicals. West African and Iranian drug trafficking organizations traffic methamphetamine into and through Thailand. In addition, the diversion and smuggling of bulk quantities of precursor chemicals, primarily in the form of pharmaceutical preparations containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, through Thailand to manufacturing sites in Myanmar and, to a lesser extent, Cambodia has become a major concern.
Cannabis use continues to be prevalent throughout Thailand. In the southern part of Thailand, the illicit trafficking and use of kratom1 remains a problem. In addition, there are indicators to suggest that the heroin and cocaine markets in Thailand may be expanding.
Table 2. Seizures of selected drugs in Thailand, 2007-2011
The number of persons arrested for methamphetamine pills in 2011 totaled 191,956, representing more than 77% of all drug-related arrests during the year and a 22% increase from the number of persons arrested for methamphetamine pills in 2010. Arrests related to crystalline methamphetamine have increased by a factor of more than 12 during the past five years.
Seizures of methamphetamine pills in 2011 totaled almost 49.4 million, which is a slight (1%) increase over the previous year and the highest total reported since 2003 when approximately 64.2 million pills were seized. During the first eight months of 2012, the number of pills seized in Thailand (50.5 million) has already surpassed the 2011 total.
Crystalline methamphetamine seizures have increased substantially during the past few years. In 2011, more than 1.2 mt of crystalline methamphetamine were seized in Thailand, representing a 75% increase over the 706 kg seized in 2010 and the highest total ever reported in the country. The sharp increase of crystalline methamphetamine seizures during the past few years is due to larger amounts being trafficked from Myanmar and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Ecstasy seizures have shown a general downward trend during the past five years. Whereas the number of ecstasy pills seized in Thailand increased by about 27% in 2011, the 21,115 pills seized during the year is the second lowest total reported since 2000.
Myanmar remains the source of the vast majority of methamphetamine pills seized in Thailand, although some quantities may also originate from Lao PDR (INCB 2010; INCSR Lao PDR 2012). Most of the crystalline methamphetamine seized in Thailand also originates from Myanmar as well as the Islamic Republic of Iran. Some quantities of crystalline methamphetamine found in Thailand are also indicated to originate from Cambodia (ONCB 2010b) and various countries in West Africa (INCSR Thailand 2012).
INCB 2010. ‘Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 2009’, International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), Vienna, February 2010.
INCSR Lao PDR 2012. Laos country report, International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Bureau of International Narcotics Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State (Accessed at: http:// www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2012/vol1/184100. htm#Laos; date accessed: 15 August 2012).
INCSR Thailand 2012. Thailand country report, International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Bureau of International Narcotics Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State (Accessed at: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2012/ vol1/184102.htm#Thailand; date accessed: 15 August 2012).
ONCB 2012e. Official communication with the Thailand Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), October 2012.
ONCB 2010b. Thailand country report, Thailand Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), presented at the Thirty-fourth Meeting of the Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies, Asia and the Pacific (HONLAP), Bangkok, 30 November-3 December 2010.