Pre-Debriefing Meeting of Operation Mekong Dragon held in Danang, Vietnam
The pre-debriefing Meeting of Operation Mekong Dragon was held in Dangnang, Vietnam on 27 February to 1 March 2019. The operation was initiated by China Customs and Vietnam Customs based on recommendation that a joint Customs operation against drug and precursor chemicals be required at the 6th Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) summit on March 29 to 31, 2018 in Hanoi.
Delegates from member Customs administrations in GMS, UNODC and RILO AP participated in the meeting. Korean Customs Service, an observer as the host of RILO AP, was also invited to the meeting. Members reported their respective progress in execution of the operation and discussed further steps to enhance information exchange and seizure cases notification not only among GMS members but also with relevant counterparts out of the sub-region.
The contribution of RILO AP was recognized by members of GMS. It was agreed that a regional operation supporting the enforcement efforts of GMS members should be initiated, through which Asian-Pacific members would be able to assist in identifying general trends and curbing the rampant drug trafficking related to the sub-region and RILO AP along with UNODC would continue coordinating the future actions.
The GMS is an international region within the Mekong River basin in Southeast Asia, including 6 countries in total: Cambodia, the People's Republic of China (PRC, specifically Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam. This area covers 2.6 million square kilometers and has a combined population of around 340 million, with the total value of exports among member countries increasing gradually every year.
Beside these optimistic signs of economic growth, the opium poppy cultivation problem in the Greater Mekong Sub-region does present challenges for government authorities to deal with, especially in the Golden Triangle area (Myanmar, Lao PDR and Thailand). The Golden Triangle Area is now the second largest cultivation region for opium poppy in the world, and that opium production is much higher than a decade ago, totaling 876 tons in 2015. Meanwhile, in GMS, methamphetamine production and trafficking are expanding as market demand for illicit drugs remains high. The diversion and trafficking of precursor chemicals and the emergence of new synthetic drugs are also challenges.