Hello, Shadowlands takes a deep plunge into crime rings both large and small. It also examines how China’s rise and America’s decline is creating new opportunities for transnational syndicates to thrive.
Bangkok-based correspondent Patrick Winn has intimately profiled men and women inside this booming underworld: the dealers, traffickers, vigilantes, motorbike bandits, and others caught up in a mad scramble for cash.
He has emerged with a work of narrative non-fiction titled “Hello, Shadowlands: Inside the Meth Fiefdoms, Rebel Hideouts and Bomb-Scarred Party Towns of Southeast Asia.”
During a press conference at the FCCT last week, he shared some thoughts with other members of the press in Bangkok.
“Why writing this book now ? I believe we are now in the golden age of organized crime in Southeast Asia with a $100 billion turnover this year, and $375 billion predicted by 2025 (UNODC figures).This includes counterfeiting, extortion, wildlife trafficking and narcotics, mainly methamphetamine. In Thailand 90% of drug busts are related to meth trafficking or consumption.”
Focussing on human stories on both sides of this crime wave, Patrick Winn intimately profiles the men and women of the region who are forced to make agonizing choices in the absence of law.
“The methamphetamine consumers I have met are describing a feeling of euphoria that makes almost everything fascinating. In the cheap form of Yaba (20% of meth and the rest mostly caffeine) it is not only a party drug, it is also a job drug that helps you to do tedious and repetitious jobs. Like driving a truck or working in a garment factory.”
Patrick Winn is taking us on a journey from Myanmar’s anarchic hills to the swamplands of Vietnam, from the Thai-Malaysia borderlands to the back alleys of Manila, and to other landscapes where crime syndicates are thriving.
A methamphetamine empire
Among them: a methamphetamine empire churning out more speed pills each year than Starbucks sells coffees worldwide.
“The second reason I wanted to write this book is that most of the criminals I have met do not fit in the stereotype described by the media in general : they are not deranged people and they are pretty rationals in their choices. Also 90% of the times there is no violence implied because it is a drug transaction.”
Taking the example of the Philippines, Patrick Winn explains that beside the drug war led by the government against small traffickers and drug users, there is also the church fighting against contraception pills.
Therefore some women in the Philippines are taking risks and making a living by selling illegal potions made with herbs and medicine as an abortion substitute, given that abortion is illegal in the Philippines.
Drug lords and generals
But the biggest chunk of the shadow economy described in “Shadowlands” remains in the hands of the drug lords, most of them operating from the northern part of Myanmar.
Many of them operating under the dwell of the Myanmar army, like in the Kachin region where Patrick met vigilantes led by the baptist church. Those self empowered law enforcers are fighting drug users by their own laws and justice, because they refuse to be ruled by drug lords.
“The Myanmar generals are using the drug lords for their fights against ethnic minorities. Basically they give the drug militia a license to produce and traffic meth, or any other illegal products, in exchange of their military support against ethnic minorities”
Thailand’s lost war against yaba
When it comes to Thailand, Patrick Winn describes the failure of the authorities to tackle both drug consumption and trafficking, especially for the cheapest and most popular drug called yaba.
“The prisons in Thailand are full of people who are only drug consumers and should not be detained as such. Thailand has one of the highest imprisonment rate in the world (along with the US), especially among women, and 80% of them are drug related.”
Also it is worth noting that from a business point of view, yaba is more efficient than heroin that used to be the number one drug in the 70’s Golden Triangle era.
According to the author this is mainly because the market for the meth is here in Asia with the rising economy, and you don’t have to ship the product in the west like for heroin in the 70’s. Also the infrastructure has gone a lot better and it is easier to move things around on roads with trucks, instead if using mules in the mountains.
As Southeast Asian governments grow increasingly authoritarian and security forces grow more untouchable. This allows police and Military Officers to run their departments like entrepreneurial businesses. Give them a big umbrella of impunity and they will permit criminals – for the right price – to take shelter underneath.
also explains the author.
Currently the Asia correspondent for Public Radio International, each week Winn’s voice is heard by millions on NPR stations. Since 2008, he has lived in Bangkok and reported almost exclusively on Southeast Asia.
Department of Foreign Trade (DFT) to organize Southern Trade Fair
The event will provide a platform for business negotiations and stimulate the economy, trade and investment in the three southern border provinces.
BANGKOK, 18 April 2019 (NNT) – The Department of Foreign Trade (DFT) will organize a Southern Border Trade Fair to provide knowledge to entrepreneurs in preparation for accessing the Malaysian market.(more…)
Hong Kong’s Star is Fading – Where Will Asia’s Next Financial Center Be?
Rising concerns over the interventionist policies of the Chinese government have led to Hong Kong losing its luster
Realising smart cities in ASEAN
ASEAN’s rapid urbanisation has implications for important issues such as strained infrastructure, rising inequalities, and public safety and security.
Rapid urbanisation poses concerning implications across ASEAN by straining infrastructure, raising inequality and compromising public safety. If ASEAN is to overcome these obstacles, it needs to make greater use of technology.(more…)
Thailand to tackle plastic waste by 2030
The average Thai consumer uses approximately eight plastic bags a day – or 500 million plastic bags per day for...
Bangkok’s electricity consumption hits new record high
Bangkok’s electricity consumption surged to a new high of 29,680.3 megawatts on Saturday night due mainly to widespread use of...
Bangkok most popular city for Japanese tourists
BANGKOK, 21st April 2019 (NNT) – Lt Gen Werachon Sukondhapatipak, the deputy spokesman of the Thai government, revealed that Minister...
Thailand to the Forefront of Asia and ASEAN’s MICE Industry
Bangkok ranks second most sustainable MICE destination in Asia in the 2018 Global Destination Sustainability Index Thailand is now among...
Understanding Asia’s fast-moving digital ecosystem
in 2017, Asia saw 319 million new mobile connections, compared with just 5 million new mobile connections in Europe over...
Subscribe via Email
- Investment2 weeks ago
Thailand to support aerospace sector via new incentives
- Environment2 weeks ago
Is “Dirty Air” the new normal for Thailand?
- Banking3 weeks ago
Southeast Asia launches $1 billion facility for green infrastructure
- China1 month ago
Will Asian economies dominate the world in 2050?
- Business3 days ago
Understanding Asia’s fast-moving digital ecosystem
- Environment5 days ago
Investing in Asia’s nascent green bonds market
- News1 week ago
Commerce Ministry revises May export goal
- Startups2 weeks ago
Thailand’s DEPA signs deal with six Singaporean IoT innovators