April 09, 2013
Southeast Asian countries continue to be a manufacturing hub and a growing market for illicit narcotics, the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) warned in its annual report released in March.
"Seizures of methamphetamines in East and Southeast Asia accounted for almost half of the global total in 2010," the report said. "In 2011, most countries in the region continued to report increasing seizures of methamphetamines."
Apart from increased manufacture, trafficking and use of crystal methamphetamine, Indonesia has one of the largest illicit cannabis plantations in the region. Around 1.8 million cannabis plants were eradicated in 2011, mostly in Aceh, the report said.
Indonesia has also been identified as one of the biggest MDMA (ecstasy) markets in the region. Law enforcement seized over 1 million ecstasy pills in 2011 and dismantled five illicit factories. According to the report, the drug is smuggled into Indonesia from Malaysia and the Netherlands.
"The prevalence of drug cases in Indonesia is alarming," said Bali Moniaga, deputy for legal affairs and co-operation at the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), in a presentation during the launch of the INCB report at the UN Information Centre in Jakarta on March 5th.
Around five million Indonesians – more than 2% of the population – use or abuse drugs. The INCB also noted an economic loss of Rp. 48.2 trillion ($4.9 billion), counting lost production and social factors related to drug abuse. New drugs
The Vienna-based INCB report also highlighted emerging issues in the global fight against drug abuse: the growing number of "new psychoactive substances" or "designer drugs".
"A new psychoactive substance was put on the market almost every week on average," the report stated. The known number of such substances increased to 49 in 2011 from about 5 in 2005.
Indonesians were made aware of the dangers of "new drugs" after the BNN raided a "drug party" at the house of Indonesian celebrity Raffi Ahmad in Jakarta on January 27th.
Two marijuana cigarettes and pills later identified as methylone – a cathinone derivative – were found in his room. The BNN subsequently announced that two people at the party had cathinone in their system – a drug related to the stimulant khat found in Arab and East African countries, that is relatively new in Indonesia.
In the fight against drugs, BNN recorded 26,458 cases with 32,743 arrests last year.
"The numbers will continue to grow and that is very worrying," Bali, of BNN, said.
INCB's report highlighted the importance of "sharing responsibility". The fight against drug abuse requires co-operation and information-sharing from every possible stakeholder – from the international level to the grassroots level.
One of Indonesia's most prominent grassroots organisations fighting drug abuse is the Anti-Narcotics National Movement (GRANAT). Erfian Zufry Eddy, the head of GRANAT in Bali, said that drug abuse is a daily problem on the island, which is popular with tourists.
"I see that drug abuse is getting worse. There are arrests every day, but there are illicit drug distributions every day as well," he told Khabar. "Most of the sellers are driven by the high profit."
He added that the most popular drugs in Bali are ecstasy and shabu, the more common name for methamphetamine.
Erfian, who has been fighting drug abuse for the last decade through GRANAT, said that only when the community is involved are they able to delve deep into the problems.
Spica Tutuhatunewa, deputy director of the Transnational Organised Crime Unit within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stressed the importance of broad regional efforts on the issue. "One country fighting alone would never succeed. That would be an impossible mission," she said.