Bangkok, 14 – 17 November 2006


Your Excellency Mr. Jaran Pukditanakul, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen.


On behalf of the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, it is indeed an honour and pleasure to address the thirtieth meeting of the Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies, Asia and the Pacific.


Patterns of drug trafficking and abuse in this region are changing.  Today, I would first like to reflect upon some relevant developments and upon new challenges which law enforcement agencies now face.


We all know that there has been a major, significant reduction in illicit opium poppy cultivation in South East Asia.  The recent UNODC Opium Survey for the Golden Triangle reflects this continuing process.  The sharp decline in illicit opium poppy cultivation will, however, only be sustainable through continuing efforts to introduce and maintain practical and long-term alternative development activities.


At the same time, the rapid emergence of illicit opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan forces us to take further vigilant actions. Neibouring countries have experienced increasing drug trafficking and abuse problems.  And we already see Afghan heroin coming into this region.


Synthetic drugs have become a major concern of drug law enforcement agencies both in the region and worldwide.  The steady rise of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) is coupled with shifting patterns of illicit manufacture, trafficking and abuse.  There is also increasing diversification of synthetic drugs, and drug combinations, sold on illicit markets under the label of eATSf and as gecstasyh.  Ketamine, not yet under international control, has also emerged as a major drug of abuse in many countries in the region.


We all have also observed recent changes in patterns of clandestine manufacture and trafficking routes of drugs, particularly amphetamine-type stimulants, and their precursors.  It appears that traffickers are being forced to relocate their clandestine ATS laboratories, in response to tightened controls and law enforcement efforts.  Often they move to countries not targeted before.


This points to the increased need for further networking of law enforcement agencies for real time information and intelligence exchange, and for maritime drug law enforcement cooperation, both for the final products and for precursor chemicals.  The continuing illicit drug manufacture in this region also suggests that, despite tightened regulatory controls, diversion and smuggling of precursors continue to take place into and from within the region.


In response, Governments in this region launched a collective ATS Initiative.  Eleven countries, those ASEAN members and China, decided on joint regional law enforcement operations.  This resulted in timely exchanges of intelligence on major targeted transnational drug trafficking groups, their organizers and clandestine laboratories, and effective and decisive operations in cross-region investigations.


Injecting drug use is a major vector for HIV/AIDS transmission throughout South East Asia.  In several countries in the region, injecting drug use is the main cause of HIV transmission.  The issue is exacerbated by a lack of access to treatment and intervention services.  High risk behaviour in closed settings also contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS.  The exploitative circumstances of human trafficking are reasonably believed to increase trafficking victimsf vulnerability to HIV infection. 


All those areas require full attention of law enforcement agencies.  With the presence of heads of drug law enforcement agencies and senior policy makers, HONLEA is one of the most vital tools available in the region in taking collective actions, sharing experiences, and building partnerships.  


HONLEA, with this yearfs focus on issues related to heroin, ATS, witness protection and maritime cooperation, has a number of challenges to meet.  Let me recapitulate some most salient ones.


·        The United Nations General Assembly Special Session set the year 2008 as the date for Member States to further tackle psychotropic substances and their precursors, and to achieve significant results in demand reduction and the reduction in the illicit cultivation of drug crops.  We need to build on the progress made thus far and continue to tackle collectively these challenging issues.


·        Sophisticated criminal organizations lie at the heart of much of the professional criminal activity in our region, including illicit drug manufacture and trafficking, and are expanding geographically throughout the region and beyond.


·        The shifting patterns in illicit drug production, manufacture, trafficking and abuse pose continual challenges to control efforts, and there is a tendency to relocate sites of illicit drug manufacture closer to the point of abuse.  New drugs are also appearing in the region; cocaine has been increasingly trafficked into the region, and so is ketamine.


·        High risk behaviour in custodial (prison-like) settings related to HIV/AIDS transmission is another driving factor which requires specific attention.


·        Countries in the region often lack the capacity and the infrastructure for the regular compilation, evaluation and reporting of drug abuse, law enforcement and criminal justice data that are required to put in place meaningful, effective and targeted responses.


UNODC will pursue integrated approach to drug, crime and terrorism issues.  The United Nations drug and crime Conventions provide a framework for countering the threats posed by criminal organizations that operate on a transnational level.  We will continue to work hand-in-hand with you, our national counterparts, in these three areas.


UNODC is ready to offer assistance and facilitate recipient and donor country coordination of strategies to address drugs and crime issues.  We will extend country and regional mechanisms and frameworks, such as the Plan of Action developed under ACCORD, the six Greater Mekong Sub-region countries Memorandum of Understanding, and the Border Liaison Office mechanism.  The Regional Centre and the network of country offices intend to replicate the successful collaboration we have achieved in the area of drugs in efforts to combat other forms of crimes.


Your guidance and practical recommendations on how to best move towards these common goals will be key to our success; that is, proposals for further action, and for building working mechanisms and standard operating procedures to do so.


Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, I wish this meeting every success and look forward to the coming daysf deliberations and recommendations.


I thank you for your kind attention.