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Indonesia's drug spread 'alarming'

Publication Date : 22-02-2013


Anti-narcotics chief says situation has hit 'emergency proportions'


Indonesia's narcotics chief says the spread of drugs in the country has reached "emergency proportions", with the number of users projected to hit a record 4.6 million by year's end if nothing is done.

Of particular concern is the rampant spread of crystal meth, which is cheap and easy to produce, National Narcotics Agency (BNN) head Anang Iskandar told reporters this week.

"It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Indonesia has entered an emergency situation on drug abuse," Commissioner General Anang said on Wednesday.

About a third of drug offenders are on crystal meth, while a fifth are on ecstasy, both amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) now mainly produced in Indonesia.

"Indonesia, which was initially only a drug transit country for ATS, has now become a producing country, considering the number of labs detected in the past five years," said BNN's deputy chief for drug eradication, Inspector-General Benny Mamoto.

About 60 per cent of these stimulants are produced locally, while the rest are imported.

The precursor chemicals to make them - ephedrine and pseudoephedrine - are mainly brought across the country's porous borders from China, Thailand, Taiwan, India and the United States, some through transit points like Singapore and Hong Kong, according to a report released on Wednesday by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Ephedrine is used in medicine to treat shortness of breath and chest tightness due to bronchial asthma. Pseudoephedrine is used to treat nasal and sinus congestion. But some of these substances are being diverted from legitimate uses.

In recent months, there have been several high-profile drug cases involving celebrities, rogue district court judges and foreigners, including a Singaporean national under investigation for allegedly running a drug operation from prison.

Latest data shows Indonesia - the world's fourth most populous country with 240 million people - had an estimated 3.8 million drug users in 2011, up from 3.6 million in 2008 and 3.2 million in 2004.

Some 60 per cent of meth and ecstasy users are under 30. Many are college students.

Anang said everyone needs to take part in efforts to prevent the spread of illicit drugs, rehabilitate addicts, and most importantly tip off the authorities about possible drug activity in their neighbourhood.

The UN drugs office report, based on BNN information, said many of the manufacturers arrested have ethnic Chinese connections.

Late last month, police said Singaporean inmate Tan Swee Koon, 36, is under investigation for allegedly operating a drug ring in a high-security prison, together with a Nigerian national. Tan, who is serving a seven-year term for drug offences, was fingered by dealers nabbed recently in Jakarta.

The UN drugs office says many illicit manufacturing facilities are in West Jakarta, which has many nightspots. Many are small-scale "kitchen-type" facilities in homes, which move frequently to avoid detection. Indonesian authorities have also detected facilities in Batam, a hotspot for smugglers.

Tun Nay Soe, a programme coordinator at the UN drugs office, worries that such stimulants have been wrongly perceived to enhance performance and communication, and are widely perceived by those who take them as being not harmful.


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