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China says lawless 'Golden Triangle' region source of 90 percent of methamphetamine, heroin

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BEIJING — Southeast Asia's lawless 'Golden Triangle' region remains the overwhelming source of the heroin and methamphetamine sold in China, the country's Cabinet said in a report issued Wednesday.

The report said 90 percent of the 9.3 tons of heroin and 11.4 tons of methamphetamine seized in 2014 was produced in the region that incorporates parts of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand and borders China's southern province of Yunnan.

By contrast, heroin from the Golden Crescent region that includes Afghanistan, the world's biggest opium producer, accounted for less than 2 percent of the drug seized in China, it said.

"From an overseas perspective, the Golden Triangle continues to be for China the most dangerous drug-producing region," said the report, the government's first comprehensive look at drug use in China.

The report underscores the persistence of the regional threat, despite China's efforts to boost cross-border cooperation to crack down on the rebel armies and criminal gangs that run the drug trade in the mountainous area along the Mekong River.

China began running joint river patrols with Thailand, Laos and Myanmar following an attack on two Chinese cargo boats on the Mekong in 2011 that resulted in the massacre of their 13 crew members.

The Cabinet report said synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine and ketamine have overtaken heroin in popularity in China. The country largely eliminated opium use after the 1949 communist takeover of power but saw drug abuse come roaring back in the 1980s after social controls were relaxed.

China currently has about 3 million registered drug users, it said, adding that estimates of those who have tried drugs run as high as 14 million amid a population of 1.4 billion.

Drug users are getting younger, come from more diverse backgrounds and are experimenting with a wider range of substances, including cocaine from South America, the report said.

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