70 drug users, sex workers detained in Saigon downtown raids

By Quoc Thang   November 27, 2018 | 05:12 am PT
70 drug users, sex workers detained in Saigon downtown raids
Police officers take drug users and sex workers to a local police station during a raid on Tuesday. Photo by VnExpress/ Quoc Thang
A pre-dawn swoop on a downtown restaurant in Saigon Tuesday saw many drug users and female sex workers detained.

Hundreds of police officers blockaded part of Nguyen Trai Street in District 1 from both ends before raiding the SunFlower Restaurant, a highly popular night hangout in the downtown area.

The restaurant's security guards were prevented from turning on the alarm system as police raided the VIP rooms on the second floor.

Many people tried to escape but were detained. Around 70 suspected drug users and waitresses were taken to the police station for drug tests.

Some of the detainees reportedly screamed and resisted the police officers.

At the same time, a group of officers raided a hotel on Le Lai Street, a 15-minute drive from Ben Thanh Market and caught a restaurant waitress offering sex services to her customer.

Police said all the waitresses at the restaurant had negotiated prices to have sex with drunk customers.

They said the raids were part of an operation to tighten control over several kinds of commercial sex services offered by many restaurants and bars in the tourist district.

The raids are happening even as Vietnam considers lifting its late night curfew to 2 a.m. Most bars and nightclubs in Saigon, the country’s largest city, are only allowed to remain open until midnight.

According to statistics compiled by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, Saigon has nearly 22,000 registered drug users, the highest in the country at nearly 10 percent of the country’s total.

Drug use is banned in Vietnam, and producing and dealing in drugs are criminal offenses.

Around 3,000 people are believed to be sex workers in Saigon, according to official data. The Vietnamese parliament has inconclusively debated legalization of sex services in the country.

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