Cambodia risks becoming a hub in the Mekong region’s thriving drug trade

Uncertainty and turmoil in the Golden Triangle, Southeast Asia's long-time narcotics hub, means syndicates are casting an eye across the Mekong for next steps. With soaring meth seizures, Cambodia is showing signs of becoming central to the region's drug trade.

Along Cambodia’s porous 435-kilometre coastline, three major ports support the lucrative shipping industry. Most shipping containers are coming to and from Bangkok and Singapore, but a more illicit business could soon have a major foothold – the region’s booming, multi-billion-dollar drug trade.

On a daily basis, traffickers across the region leverage a range of creative concealment methods, from packing narcotics into pig organs, noodles cartons and common tree nuts, to more sophisticated tactics such as lining large turbines with secret welded compartments and coating layers of liquified product onto rubber floor mats to avoid X-ray detection.

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, attempts to traffic massive quantities of high-grade crystal methamphetamine, heroin, ecstasy, ketamine and other synthetics using these and other methods have intensified, driven by Asia’s organised crime networks and their ability to adapt and innovate.

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