Border control tightened as Vietnam eyes Cambodia, Laos outbreaks

By Hoang Tao, Cuu Long, Duc Hung   April 27, 2021 | 08:30 pm GMT+7
Provinces bordering Cambodia and Laos have prepared themselves for the worst-case scenario should Vietnam's two neighbors fail to contain their Covid-19 outbreaks.

For more than a week, following the spike of locally-transmitted Covid-19 cases in Cambodia, Ha Tien Town in southern Kien Giang Province has ordered mobile police, militia and self-defense forces to work closely with border guards to prevent people from crossing the border illegally and possibly bringing the virus to Vietnam, which has gone a month without local transmissions.

Forces have been working at full capacity to ensure there will be someone to keep an eye on the border area around the clock.

Lieutenant Nguyen Su Long, head of Sa Ky border control station in Ha Tien, said every night, a team would go on patrol 6-10 times aside from those standing guard at fixed posts. "The task is challenging, especially as the southern region has entered the rainy season, but all members are aware that it is a crucial one and none have grown discouraged," he said.

Kien Giang Provinces border guards patrol the sea area off Ha  Tien Town, April 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Phuong

Kien Giang Province border guards patrol the sea area off Ha Tien Town, April 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Phuong.

Aside from doing their own jobs on Vietnam's side, they also coordinate with forces in Cambodia, with frequent phone calls having been made to raise the alarm any time someone suspicious appears near the border.

Vietnam shares a 1,137-kilometer boundary with Cambodia in Mekong Delta, near Ho Chi Minh City, and in the Central Highlands. The Kien Giang-Cambodia border stretches 56 kilometers (34.8 miles) in land and covers 62,000 square kilometers of sea area.

Phu Quoc Island off mainland Kien Giang has been identified as a hotspot for illegal entries.

In the past week, seven posts and 50 soldiers have been sent to the island, raising its capacity to 27 posts and 100 soldiers.

The Command of Naval Region 5 of the Vietnam People's Navy, in charge of protecting the southern sea area and the Gulf of Thailand, has sent more ships to patrol key areas, using radar to detect any boats coming from Cambodia. The 4th Coast Guard Region Command, which is tasked with enforcing laws, protecting national security, safety and order in the southwestern sea of the country, has also sent 32 boats of different sizes to the region.

Thanks to the tightened control and management, tens of people entering Vietnam illegally via the island have been found. As regulated, everyone entering Vietnam is quarantined for 14 days and tested at least twice.

Huynh Quang Hung, Phu Quoc’s chairman, said if necessary, the province would suspend the operations of all fishing vessels.

In An Giang, 200 posts and stations have been set up to watch over a border of 100 kilometers with Cambodia.

Major Nguyen Truong Phong, Head of Vinh Nguon border guard station, said with many rivers and canals adjacent to localities in Cambodia, An Giang provides the perfect conditions for people to break into Vietnam.

Cambodia has been in the grip of a Covid-19 spread since late February. Its caseload has crossed 10,000, with 580 new infections reported Monday alone, after recording only around 400 cases in the whole of last year.

With a border of 50 kilometers along Cambodia, Dong Thap has set up 16 mobile patrol teams aside from the existing 17 posts to watch over the frontier.

On Monday morning, border guards stopped a group of eight Vietnamese from entering Dong Thap illegally from the Cambodian province of Kampong Chhnang. They arrived on a boat along the Tien River, a branch of the Mekong.

Forces in northern and central Vietnam are also halting illegal entries from the Vietnam-Lao border, which runs 2,161 kilometers across 10 provinces.

Captain Hoang Kim Bac at a border station in Quang Tri Province’s Huong Hoa District said this season, water levels in rivers are low, making them ideal routes for illegal border crossings.

On April 23 and 24, nine people were caught breaking into Vietnam via the commune.

Another border station in the district has been supplied with 48 members for militia and self-defense forces to help reinforce the patrol task.

Ha Tinh Province this week set up 11 guard posts with 10 staff each, with five more members held in reserve should the situation intensify.

Border guards in Quang Tri Province patrol along the border with Laos, April 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Tao

Border guards in Quang Tri Province patrol the border with Laos, April 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Tao.

The government of Laos last Friday closed the nation's borders and announced a two-week lockdown in the capital, Vientiane.

Laos on Monday saw its biggest jump in Covid-19 cases, with 113 new patients. Another 75 cases were recorded on Tuesday, bringing the nationwide total to 511.

Over the last few months, the National Steering Committee on Covid-19 Prevention and Control and the Health Ministry have been warning about a new outbreak in the country as many people have entered the country illegally and others have dropped their guard.

 
 
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