Task force to control drug precursors
Eight Asian nations have agreed to set up a joint task force to tighten control of precursor chemicals to suppress illicit drugs production.
Permphong Chavalit, the secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), said Thailand will act as a coordinator of the joint task force while the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) will help oversee its workflow.
The task force will suppress the trafficking and production of drugs precursor chemicals, the basic ingredients for drug production.
Anti-narcotics officials from each country assigned to work for the task force will form a network to share information, he said. Each country is also required to step up its own patrols and inspections at border crossings to suppress traffickers' attempts to smuggle drug precursor chemicals, he said.
Mr Permphong was speaking yesterday at the closing of a drugs meeting in Bangkok. Nearly 100 drugs officials from Cambodia, China, India, South Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand as well as UNODC attended the two-day meeting.
Mr Permphong said each country in the region has listed different types of precursor substances which could be used in drugs production. The UNODC also asked each country to control the distribution and export of 14 types of precursor chemicals, he said.
Among 14 types of precursor substances, he said Thailand bans the use of acetic anhydride, a common ingredient in heroin production, and pseudoephedrine, an ingredient in over-the-counter cold medicines sold in many parts of the world.
He said pseudoephidrine is illegal in Thailand because it can be diverted to produce methamphetamine, or speed pills. Cambodia, meanwhile, bans only safrole oil as a possible precursor for making speed pills, he said. Safrole oil is extracted from a tree which grows in the west of Cambodia.
Mr Permphong said the UNODC wants each Asian country to issue its own legislation to control the distribution, use and export of precursor chemicals.
He said the international agency has also called for each country to set up a surveillance system that allows it to monitor the local precursor chemical situation.
The UNODC said Asia has become a hub for the world's precursor chemicals, particularly pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, Mr Permphong said. The two are widely used legally in the pharmaceutical industry in South Korea, China and India.
Delegates were also told illicit demand for acetic anhydride, used in heroin production, is increasing worldwide. China reported it recently seized 200 tonnes of Ma Huang, or Chinese ephedra, used to produce ephedrine. China has banned this precursor, which is extracted from a local tree.