In a statement bound to pique the interest of any Narcos fan in Asia, Inspector-General of Malaysia’s police force, Abdul Hamid Bador, has compared his country to Colombia.
While it might be too early to expect a serialized Netflix drama on the situation, Bador made it very clear that Malaysia’s drug trade is now comparable to that of the country known as the world’s largest producer of cocaine. And the birthplace of narcotics king Pablo Escobar.
Bador’s comments come as the country struggles with an escalating drug problem. In a press conference on July 29, he revealed that his own force has succumbed to the drugs that are now widely-accessible throughout the nation. 30 police personnel were arrested for drug use in the first half of 2019 alone.
“Every week, we arrest our own men who are high on meth and syabu,” he said.
Syabu is a street name for methamphetamine used across Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. In 2017, some 15,000 Malaysians looked for treatment for their addiction to the drug. Alarmingly, meth users now outnumber any other drug user in the country, including heroin, which was once the largest drug market.
Bador also stated that Malaysia could become a major player in the global narcotics game.
According to CNN, Asia’s meth market is worth $61 billion. Malaysia is very much a part of this.
It’s gotten to the point, Bador said, that the country’s drug trade could reach “the level of what we can find in Colombia.” The illicit drug trade is so rampant that the police force is having trouble keeping up. They simply don’t have enough resources to fight the problem effectively.
“That is how bad it is,” he said. “My men are so tired.”
Malaysia’s drug problem has seen pretty bad days in recent years. Malay Mail reports that minor drug offenders account for over half the country’s prison population. That’s nearly 50,000 people. Those who are charged with trafficking face far graver circumstances: those caught with over 200 grams of cannabis or 15 grams of heroin can face the death penalty.
It may come as a relief that the Malaysian government is now considering moving towards decriminalizing drug addiction and drug possession for personal use. The reform would allow addicts to be treated as medical patients, rather than criminals. Bador also reported that the police are working with the government to come up with more effective approaches to combating drug use and trade.
This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.