HCMC importance increasing as drug trafficking hub: police

By Quoc Thang, Viet Anh   April 13, 2021 | 04:31 am PT
HCMC importance increasing as drug trafficking hub: police
Narcotics seized by police in HCMC in February, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Van Vo.
Vietnam’s biggest city has become an increasingly important hub for drug smugglers who are resorting to “extremely sophisticated and cunning tricks,” a senior drug crime investigator says.

The factors that make the city an attractive transit point in drug trafficking were repeated at a Tuesday meeting by Major General Nguyen Van Vien, head of the Ministry of Public Security's Drug Crime Investigation Department (C04).

He said the distance to transport drugs from the border to the city was short and it was convenient to send it to other places, both in Vietnam and abroad.

The result has been that drug crime has developed most complicatedly in southern Vietnam, particularly HCMC and the area along the Vietnam-Cambodia border.

Drugs typically enter Vietnam via three main routes: from the "Golden Triangle" through the Vietnam-Cambodia border into southern localities, including HCMC; from the triangle into Laos and north-central localities; and from Cambodia into the Central Highlands.

The area where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong Rivers is called the "Golden Triangle." But the term is more commonly used to refer to an area of approximately 950,000 square kilometers (367,000 square miles) of mountains straddling the three countries. For almost a century the "Golden Triangle" was the biggest source of heroin in the world until its position was recently usurped by Afghanistan’s "Golden Crescent."

"Once gathered in HCMC, the drugs are transferred via air routes, sea routes or simply through the post office to other nations," Vien said, adding that Eastern Europe has emerged among the most popular destinations via flights.

Drug lords never get directly involved in the trafficking but recruit and guide traffickers from afar via different social media platforms, using code language and other signals to communicate, he added.

Investigations have confirmed that cartels are connected across nations and well armed.

They also deploy tricks that are "extremely sophisticated and cunning," including hiding drugs in food, granite blocks and car engines.

Most recently, police detected narcotics being transported in an auto with a logo of the Vietnam Television channel.

Last November, the C04 launched an operation to work with police forces in 18 cities and provinces, including HCMC and those in the south and central and Central Highlands regions, to tighten control over drug crimes.

After three months, the operation identified 106 major drug smuggling routes and 169 areas that are "most complicated" in drug trading and transporting.

More than 590 kg of synthetic drugs, 65 kg of heroin, 3.4 kg of cocaine were seized and more than 1,660 suspects were arrested in HCMC and along the Vietnam-Cambodia border, the meeting heard.

In the coming time, the C04 will strengthen cooperation with other units under the Public Security Ministry, border guards, customs and coast guard forces to further tighten control on drug crimes towards ensuring that Vietnam will not become an international drug transit hub at any cost, Vien said.

Investigators will also focus on hotspots where drugs are normally consumed and traded, like bars, pubs and karaoke parlors as well as locations that dealers stay in, like resorts and apartment buildings.

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