Bangkok: The UN called on Southeast Asian countries to take measures to prevent the current increase in trade and migratory flows from causing the expansion of organized crime.

According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the development of transport systems and the lifting of trade and visa barriers planned for 2015 in Southeast Asian countries entails risks which have not been taken into account sufficiently.

The organisation warned against a possible increase in trafficking of drugs, people, protected wildlife, smuggled goods or fraudulent medicines unless immediate measures are taken at the national and regional level, including coordination mechanisms.

“Without an effective and integrated management of borders, law enforcement agencies and judicial strategies, organised criminal groups will continue their expansion, threatening prosperity and public safety,” said Jeremy Douglas, UNODC’s regional representative.

“The increase of illicit profits will expand corruption, distort and hit economies, and harm the region’s population as a whole,” he added in a statement.

Organised crime generates some $100 billion in the region, a “conservative” estimation, said Douglas after a meeting in Bangkok between UNODC experts and representatives from several multilateral regional organisations.

“Asia is a source and destination of illicit flows that generate enormous and growing benefits for transnational organised criminal groups,” UNODC’s regional head warned, as he called for a “concerted effort to plan jointly as integration in Asia accelerates”.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is planning to reduce restrictions on the movement of people and goods in 2015 among its member states: Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.