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Cablegate: Exbs Vietnam: Meetings with Border Security

VZCZCXRO5252
RR RUEHC
DE RUEHBK #5782/01 3172351
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 132351Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0633
RHMFIUU/US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION WASHINGTON DC
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RULSJGA/COMDT COGARD WASHDC
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 0675
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCNEXC/EXPORT CONTROL AND RELATED BORDER SECURITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 005782

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR ISN/ECC KCROUCH, EAP/MLS BBLACKSHAW
CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION FOR INA RWATT
DEPT OF ENERGY FOR NNSA TPERRY
AMEMBASSY HANOI FOR PECKSTROM

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETTC KNNP KSTC MNUC PARM PREL VN
SUBJECT: EXBS VIETNAM: MEETINGS WITH BORDER SECURITY
OFFICIALS


BANGKOK 00005782 001.3 OF 003


SUMMARY

1. (SBU) EXBS Advisor and POL Officer met with Vietnamese
border and port control officials in Hanoi, Lang Son, and
Haiphong between October 30 and November 2, 2007. Rapid
growth in industrial development and international trade is
stretching the government's ability to monitor activities at
land and sea ports of entry. Additionally, remote and often
difficult border terrain provides smugglers ample opportunity
to avoid official scrutiny. Although significant
international assistance is being provided to Vietnam to
enhance its customs organization and practices, the scale of
the challenge suggests that additional targeted assistance
would be useful.

LANG SON PROVINCE

2. (U) Lang Son province is located in northeastern Vietnam.
It shares a 253 kilometer border with China, and has the
busiest land border crossing point into that country, with
both road and rail links. EXBS Advisor and POL Officer,
accompanied by DEA Country attaches, visited with provincial
officials in Lang Son city and Customs and Border Army
officials at the Friendship Border Gate.

3. (U) Terrain along the border is mountainous, and
difficult to patrol. The province is sparsely populated,
with only 740,000 people from seven main ethnic groups
occupying 8300 square kilometers. In spite of this, local
officials are focused on development and economic growth. In
addition to being a gateway to Vietnam, Lang Son is also
being developed as the main land artery from China to the
rest of mainland Southeast Asia. In addition to the
international rail link, four national highways cross the
province. There are 693 registered businesses, and fourteen
development projects being implemented by various NGOs. Most
investment in the province is Chinese, but local officials
hope to encourage other sources, including from the U.S. The
average economic growth rate in the province from 2001 to
2005 was 10.4 percent.

4. (SBU) Local Customs officials told us that it has been
difficult to keep pace with this growth. There has been an
80 percent increase in trade since 2006, but no increase in
staff. Since January 2007, approximately $530 million USD in
imports, $220 million USD in exports, and 330,000 visitors
have passed through the border crossing. Between 50 to 70
trucks, 2 to 4 freight trains, and up to 2000 visitors per
day are processed through the crossing. Visitors are of
approximately 80 different nationalities. Fraudulent
documents are a major problem. Besides legitimate traffic,
officials told us trafficking in persons and illegal drugs
are also issues of concern (although the drugs are reportedly
smuggled through more remote border areas - there have been
virtually no significant drug seizures at the crossing
point). They acknowledged their WTO obligations with respect
to intellectual property rights, but the abundance of pirated
goods in the local markets indicated a need for significant
improvement in barring this type of trade.

5. (SBU) To deal with these challenges, Vietnamese border
forces are organized into three main agencies. Customs is
responsible for inspecting cargo, the Border Army is
responsible for immigration functions, and the Quarantine
Force checks for diseases. Officials assured us there were
effective joint working mechanisms, but institutional issues
such as a lack of law enforcement authority by Customs
officials, the inability of Chinese trucks to proceed beyond
the crossing station, and the lack of interaction with
counter drug officials in the crossing area seemed to
compound the challenges. Customs officials had some
computers, but Border Army officials complained of a lack of
adequate equipment. The single baggage x-ray machine at the
border gate was broken, and no manual inspection of baggage
was observed. (Note: EXBS has provided night vision

BANGKOK 00005782 002.3 OF 003


binoculars and anticipates providing some rough terrain
vehicles for use in more remote areas. Other ideas are being
developed.) Customs officials told us they apply risk
management techniques to compensate for the lack of manpower.
Officials also told us that Vietnam and China are
negotiating a Transport Agreement that will allow vehicles to
proceed further inland beyond the checkpoint.

HAIPHONG PORT

6. (U) Haiphong is the third largest city in Vietnam, with
approximately 1.9 million inhabitants. Its port is the
largest in Vietnam's northern region. Approximately 16
million tons of cargo pass through Haiphong per year, 70
percent of it containerized. As in Lang Son, Customs shares
border security responsibilities with the Border Army.
Customs is responsible for all imports and exports, and is
organized into three divisions. Division 1 handles bulk
cargo, Division 2 handles containerized cargo, and Division 3
handles a mix of bulk and containers, as well as "special
items." The Vice Director of Haiphong Customs proudly
reported that Haiphong has one of the best safety records in
Vietnam.

7. (U) Customs has used risk management techniques for the
past two years to manage their inspection workload. Prior to
using risk management, 80-90 percent of cargo was subject to
inspection. Using risk management, approximately 36-39
percent of imports and 27 percent of exports are identified
for closer inspection. Approximately one percent of imports
and exports (roughly 1000 cases a year) have violations,
which are mostly trade fraud (avoiding customs duties).
There have not been any cases of weapons or drugs being
smuggled. Most of the inspections are done manually,
although there are some x-ray machines for checking luggage.
Customs is planning on buying container x-ray screening
machines for Haiphong and Ho Chi Minh City in FY08, and the
port has already designated the site for this equipment.

HANOI

8. (U) The General Department of Vietnamese Customs is
receiving significant international assistance. The European
Technical Assistance for Vietnam (ETV) program is a
wide-ranging project providing assistance in the areas of
legal policy, taxation, accounting/audits/insurance,
statistical analysis, quality assurance/standardization, and
customs. Its assistance is mostly in the form of technical
advice and strategies, rather than equipment. It interacts
with the Ministries of Planning and Investment, Finance, and
Science and Technology. Its work with Customs is focused on
strengthening capacity in drafting policies and laws to
facilitate trade, implementing World Customs Organization
standards, enforcing WTO intellectual property protections,
anti-smuggling training, enhancing Customs lab capabilities,
and integration with the ASEAN Single Window network by 2012.
Support for the ASEAN Single Window program includes a team
of expert advisors, overseas study trips, strategy and action
plan development, and outreach to both public and private
organizations to improve awareness, integration, and
ultimately, economic growth. In addition to the ETV program,
we were also told that Vietnam has received a $70 million USD
World Bank loan to modernize its Customs operations.

COMMENTS

9. (SBU) Vietnam's rapid increase in industrial development
and trade suggest that corresponding programs to improve
strategic trade and border controls are timely and necessary.
Integration of international concerns and best practices can
help balance host nation focus on economic objectives. GVN
officials are aware of the challenges posed by implementing
higher export control standards in the face of an increasing
volume of cargo and appear to genuinely welcome cooperation
with the U.S. Although significant assistance is currently

BANGKOK 00005782 003.7 OF 003


being provided, the scale of the challenge and pace of
development suggest that additional targeted assistance would
be useful and well-justified.
BOYCE

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