Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR November 2010 Contents 48 | Asia Pacific Defence Reporter
TRENDS IN ASIA-PACIFIC
Organised crime began to move away from mono-ethnic behaviour
at the end of the Cold War. This was noticed across Asia, but the trend
expanded exponentially from about 2000. What caused this was the
convergence of booming international trade due to globalisation, global
financial deregulation and the emergence of new technologies such
as containerisation, improved logistics and cargo tracking, advanced
refrigeration, high grade commercial telecommunications encryption and
the internet. The result has been a boom in world trade, and all of these
factors combine to create an exciting array of new business opportunities
to which traditional criminal entities have adapted.
The major strategic drivers behind their adaptation to change were
globalisation, technology, the transnational nature of organised crime, and
development of new markets (methamphetamines and ‘ecstasy’ being just
the more recent examples). All of these factors combined to make mono-
ethnic networks obsolescent.
CRIMINAL BUSINESS RESPONSES TO SYNTHETIC DRUGS
From the mid 1990s a new generation of synthetic drugs began to emerge.
These had been synthesised many decades before, and some had even
seen widespread use. Some were developed in Japan from 1919 and used
as a military drug by the Imperial Japanese Army - to keep soldiers alert
and aggressive. Imperial Japan produced amphetamines in Formosa. As a
result, there was an automatic market for it in postwar Japan. In 1945, large
stocks fell into the hands of organised Japanese criminals. There are many
of these drugs. Amphetamines and ‘ecstasy’ are the best known examples.
During the 1990s the use of these drugs spread. Their cheapness and
perceived ‘harmless party drug’ reputation created a strong market.
In the 1970s, the Taiwanese government cracked down on production,
which moved to Fujian Province on the Chinese mainland, where Taiwanese
criminals had strong links, being ethnic Fujianese, with existing cross-strait
supply chains. Subsequent crackdowns in China forced Fujian-based
organised criminals to move production to the Philippines.
Suppression of the trade in the Philippines led to the present spread of
large clandestine laboratories to other nations, where weak governance
and corruption permitted their establishment. It also left behind a pool
of local expertise which saw increasing local production to feed a local
demand. Most of this is ‘shabu’, low quality amphetamines: but so cheap is
manufacture that massive profits are made on volume sales at below two
percent of amphetamine prices in Singapore or Australia.
Forcing the manufacture offshore also saw the creation of a business
structure for amphetamine production and wholesale trading. It meant
that specialist personnel were recruited by the syndicate for specialised
tasks irrespective of their ethnicity.
Chinese transnational organised crime responded quickly, they saw the
shift in the market, the reduced risk and increased profit ratios. What really
was alluring was the risk reduction. The new synthetic drugs were cheaply
made in laboratories and cut out whole categories of risk associated
with growing and then refining opiates. They also generated high profits
Part 3 Trends
in the Asia
ADF soldier conducts a routine perimeter
patrol of the Rove Central Correctional
Centre, in the Solomon Islands.
Chinese transnational organised crime
responded quickly when they saw the shift in
the market, the reduced risk and increased
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