Vietnam's security is threatened by greed of a few

By Hoang Thuy   August 3, 2020 | 03:52 pm PT
Our border guards brave tough conditions and make sacrifices to prevent illegal immigration and human trafficking, especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hoang Thuy

Hoang Thuy

But their efforts can be seriously undermined by the enemy within – ignorance and greed.

Nguyen Dac Dat was the leader of the Vietnamese makeshift border post No. 1302, Khe Va Village, Binh Lieu Town, Binh Lieu District, in the northern province of Quang Ninh, bordering China.

He and his team had been stationed there since early this year, trying to prevent illegal entry of foreigners as well as the scourge of human trafficking, a task that becomes even more important in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the first days upon reaching the place, just a few days after the Lunar New Year, they had no proper lodging, and the border guards had to spend nights down in the drain (their trench), the only "relatively dry" place to shelter from cold winter winds in the mountainous area. On some nights, it got too cold and it was difficult to go out on patrol. Yet, not once did the guards patrol the borders for form’s sake, as they understood the paramount importance of their duties.

After the Vietnamese prime minister’s recent resolution to prevent all illegal entries into the nation, the guards received some combat tents to make their stationing more bearable. However, the tents barely did any good against roof-lifting winds and drenching downpours in the northern highland areas. On the third day, the tents were blown away and lost as they plunged into the abyss adjoining the guards’ resting area.

Luckily, the situation significantly improved after a visit by the district leaders, with a donation of VND30 million (approximately $1,300) to build temporary lodgings for the guards. For the first time since they began patrolling in the new post, Dat and his teammates could sleep in a dry place.

Even with dry lodging, the guards faced a many difficulties at the isolated post. Just 30 km from the main border-guard command post, they were isolated with no people around, no electricity, no water, and no Internet. On top of that, they were in charge of a large patrolling area, which made their task even more challenging.

Sharing their stories, Dat told me about many sleepless nights, patrolling the border in drowning rain.

"My wife only knows that I’m a border guard, because I don’t tell her the details. She’d worry a lot if she knew."

For many months, Dat had been suffering from a growing kidney stone that was gradually weakening him. But he put up with it until he could not work anymore before reporting to his superiors that he needed treatment.

Dat said he chose to do the job because "I felt it was sacred and meaningful." Leaving his young wife and a three-year-old son at home, he stayed at the border, thinking he had to protect the country against illegal immigrants carrying the dangerous virus.

Dat is among 30,000 border guards, medical and logistics personnel, drivers, and military soldiers who spend months stationed at Vietnamese borders. Among these, hundreds have postponed their own weddings and many have not even been able to return and see their parents for the last time.

We must remember that this is the kind of suffering, hardship and sacrifice that enabled Vietnam to enjoy a 99-day streak without community transmission of the novel coronavirus.

A Vietnamese soldier sits on his bed at a station near the China border in Lang Son Province, February 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.

A Vietnamese soldier sits on his bed at a station near the China border in Lang Son Province, February 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.

Unfortunately, some people don’t appreciate or respect such efforts. We have seen recently how several Vietnamese have smuggled Chinese people into Vietnam. These illegal immigrants came into the country without any Covid-19 testing or quarantining.

On 25 July, Quang Ninh police detained six Vietnamese youngsters for allegedly smuggling Chinese nationals into Vietnam for 4,000 Yuan ($570) each person.

Similarly, Lao Cai police caught 10 Chinese nationals without legal entrance papers. They claimed they used Vietnamese-provided services, paying just VND500,000 ($21.45) to travel downstream Nanxi River in China’s Yunnan Province, before transferring to a car heading towards Lau Village, Muong Khuong District in the northern mountainous province that also borders with China.

Meanwhile, in another province on the northern border, Lang Son, two Vietnamese nationals, Hoang Thi Thom and Dinh Thi Tu, were caught smuggling eight foreigners through the Chi Ma Border Post for reportedly paltry fees of VND250,000.

Under Vietnamese law, any person assisting illegal entry into Vietnamese territory is subject to fines ranging from VND15 to 25 million and prison sentences from one to 15 years.

However, besides handing out legal punishments, we need to find the root cause of the problem. How can a few persons put their own selfish interests above that of national interest? It is only by answering this question properly that Vietnam can prepare to fence off future hardships.

Mahatma Gandhi said: The world has enough for everyone’s needs, but not anyone’s greed.

This holds true for all nations, including Vietnam.

Despite being able to protect Vietnam from the external dangers, the border guards cannot prevent the rotten apple of selfishness in a small, but formidable, number of Vietnamese natives.

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