The meth is produced in the “Golden Triangle” — cutting across northern Thailand, Laos, China and Myanmar — where armed rebels are the law and drug lords lease jungle labs under their protection.
The market-leading syndicate is believed to be the “Sam Gor” group, dominated by Chinese gangsters who control at least 40 percent of Asia’s meth — sending their signature tea packets stuffed with “ice” across the Asia-Pacific region.
Asian organized crime is more stealthy than its violent and showy Latin American peers, operating in anonymity across countries with long, porous borders, corruptible police, and large domestic markets of drug users.
To unwind the money trail, Thailand has been working with the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), whose skills were honed in the fight with the Latin American cartels.
But crime experts warn police must be ready to follow the money wherever it leads if they are to get close to the heads of the criminal chain.
The UNODC’s Douglas added: “The message is you can’t just stop at the drug seizure.”
by Thanaporn PROMYAMYAI / Aidan JONES