Mass media and Hollywood fixate on stories of Mexican cartels, Sicilian mafioso and Russian gangsters. But they've largely overlooked the growing power of Southeast Asian organized crime. Within the next decade, the region's booming black markets will be worth $375 billion more than the legit output of many Asian countries.
These crime syndicates can corrupt governments, skew policy and warp the lives of millions around the world. They control a world run by players large and small: from Myanmar's methamphetamine empire, now churning out more speed pills than Starbucks serves coffee orders worldwide, to low-level vigilantes and motorbike bandits. All are thriving amid the region's geopolitical flux.
Bangkok-based journalist Patrick Winn explains why Southeast Asian organized crime is entering a golden age and traces the threads linking this underworld to policies of the American empire. He also argues that most people tangled up in this criminal landscape deserve empathy, not vilification.
Patrick Winn, Asia correspondent for Public Radio International and author of Hello, Shadowlands: Inside the Meth Fiefdoms, Rebel Hideouts and Bomb-Scarred Party Towns of Southeast Asia. Winn is a recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards (also known as the "Poor Man's Pulitzer") and three Human Rights Press Awards from Amnesty International.