I'm Patrick Winn, a radio journalist covering organized crime in Southeast Asia. My book (HELLO, SHADOWLANDS) is about encounters with meth traffickers, vigilantes, jihadis and more. AMA.
I'm the Asia correspondent for The World, a show that airs on NPR stations. I'm originally from a small town in N.C. but I've lived in Bangkok, Thailand, for more than a decade.
Much of my work focuses on organized crime in Southeast Asia. This region is home to some of the world's fastest-growing black markets — and yet I find that few Americans know much about this underworld. It encompasses the world's largest meth trade. The drug lords' top product is a little pink pill, packed with meth, that smells exactly like cheap vanilla frosting.
I've also spent time with Vietnamese vigilantes, some of whom fought with the Viet Cong. The group of men I met were defending their village against bandits intent on stealing their pet dogs. Near the China-Myanmar border, I've embedded with Baptist vigilantes. They are waging a holy crusade against drugs — and one night, I watched them invade a meth user's home, kidnap him and flog him in a secret detention center on church property.
Other stories I've covered: jihadis attacking red-light zones in Thailand's south, a nearly all-female crime ring in the Philippines and North Korean hostesses who sing in state-run lounges/restaurants across Asia.
One major theme in my reporting is pushing back against the typical "true crime" style of coverage that depicts most criminals as evil or deranged. I've met a lot of criminals. They might not be angels but almost none of them are deranged. They're usually rational actors whose decisions make perfect sense in context. In fact, I've often enjoyed their company.
Much of this is covered in my new book: HELLO, SHADOWLANDS — Inside the Meth Fiefdoms, Rebel Hideouts and Bomb-Scarred Party Towns of Southeast Asia.
Yes, promoting the book is what nudged me to do the AMA but I'm quite happy to take the conversation any direction.
Here's some of my recent reporting: "How North Korea's Hackers Became The World's Greatest Bank Robbers"
EDIT: It's getting late here in Bangkok so I'm going to hit pause for the night. Feel free to post questions as I slumber and I'll answer them once I wake up. Really appreciate everyone taking the time to participate. Big shout out to all the lurkers too. Sorry that my responses aren't more pithy. (And I'm surprised no one has asked about North Korea's dodgy criminal operations in Southeast Asia.)