Vietnam sees record surge in crystal meth, ketamine seizures

By Nguyen Quy   May 22, 2020 | 12:24 am PT
Vietnam sees record surge in crystal meth, ketamine seizures
Synthetic drug use is on the rise in Vietnam, especially among partying young. Photo by Reuters/Romeo Ranoco.
An annual narcotics report on the Asia-Pacific region showed Vietnam seized a record amount of crystal methamphetamine and ketamine last year.

In 2019, Vietnamese police seized 5,500 kg of crystal meth, three times higher than the 1,929 kg of 2018, indicating a rapid expansion of the methamphetamine market, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stated in a report.

Record amounts of the synthetic drug ketamine were also seized in Vietnam last year, driven by a single trafficking case involving over 500 kg, the report said.

The seizure of ketamine increased from 6.2 kg in 2018 to 507.5 kg last year.

In May 2019, Vietnam arrested two Taiwanese and one Chinese and seized 500 kilos of ketamine hidden in a warehouse in HCMC, considered the largest amount of ketamine to have ever been seized in the country.

Police also seized 988,000 of methamphetamine tablets, down from 1.3 million in 2018, the report held.

The amount of heroin seized last year hit a slight decrease from 1,584 kg in 2018 to 1,494 in 2019, while about 600 kg of opium were confiscated, a five-time increase over a year earlier.

Heroin used to be popular among addicts in Vietnam, but many have switched to synthetic drugs.

The number of registered drug users using synthetic drugs have grown from 10.8 percent in 2015 to 60.7 percent last year, the report revealed. Over 50.8 percent of registered users were above 30 while 49 percent were between 16 and 30.

According to the Ministry of Public Security's Drug Crime Investigation Department, the amount of narcotics seized in 2019 was the highest ever, nearly nine tons.

Vietnam is a key trafficking hub for narcotics from the Golden Triangle, an intersection of China, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar and the world's second largest drug producing area behind the Golden Crescent in South Asia.

The repeated haul of huge amounts of narcotics is occurring despite Vietnam having some of the world’s toughest drug laws. Those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or cocaine or over 2.5 kg of methamphetamine could face capital punishment.

Production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of any other illegal substance is also punishable by death.

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