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ISSUE BRIEF

An 'ASEAN Way' of Combating Transnational Crime

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February 23, 2013
Riddhi Shah

The United Nation’s Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) believes that organized crime groups roughly earn $250 billion per year. Moreover the annual turnover of transnational organized criminal activities such as drug trafficking, illegal arms trade and the smuggling of immigrants is estimated at $ 870 billion annually. Transnational crime, like several other security threats such as terrorism, maritime terrorism and piracy has no universally accepted definition.

The concept of transnational crime is not be confused with that of international crime. Although international crimes are those that are committed ‘across’ international borders; they may not necessarily have repercussions for more than one state. Transnational crime, on the other hand, itself involves ‘crossing’ a border and much more significantly, the effect of the crime is not limited to a single state.

Transnational crime has become an issue of increasing concern for India. The last decade has seen a rise in the production and consumption of narcotic drugs in Southeast Asia and India. Southeast Asian nations have become one of the leading producers of narcotics such as opium, heroin and amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS). An estimated two-thirds of the world’s opium is produced here. Thailand used to be the main route for trafficking heroin in Southeast Asia but with the commercial opening up of China and India, new routes have come into existence.

Opium as well as heroin travel from Western Myanmar to India’s north eastern states of Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. From here the drugs travel to Kolkata via Assam and are finally shipped to the rest of the Indian subcontinent. Drug distribution commonly occurs on the way to the final destination. In 2010 - 11 Manipur and Nagaland were the top two states in India in the matter of drug abuse. While Manipur had an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 drug addicts, Nagaland closely followed with 35,000 to 40,000 drug addicts.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a 10 member regional grouping comprised of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand., Brunei Darussalam, Viet Nam, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia. ASEAN has been promoting cooperation between Southeast Asian states to combat transnational crime for more than three decades. The struggle against transnational crime began with the Declaration of the ASEAN Concord signed on 24 February 1976. Initially concerned only with combating abuse and trafficking of narcotic drugs, ASEAN has expanded its fight against transnational crimes by including terrorism and other crimes such as arms smuggling, money laundering, illegal migration and piracy under its purview.

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Riddhi Shah is currently an Intern with Southeast Asia and Oceania Centre at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi. She studies issues of maritime security, transnational crime and asymmetric warfare within the Southeast Asia and Oceania region.