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Cablegate: Largest Drug Bust Ever in Vietnam

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS HANOI 001504

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV; INL/AAE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR KCRM PREL PINS LA VM CNARC
SUBJECT: LARGEST DRUG BUST EVER IN VIETNAM

1. (U) SUMMARY. In what Vietnam's state-controlled media
reported as the "largest single heroin seizure ever" in
Vietnam, Quang Tri provincial counternarcotics police seized
approximately 40 kilograms of heroin entering Vietnam in a
truck near the Lao Bao border crossing. Five people are
under temporary detention and the case is under further
investigation by Ministry of Public Security's
Counternarcotics Department. END SUMMARY

-----------------------------
QUANG TRI -- A DRUG "HOTSPOT"
-----------------------------

2. (U) Quang Tri province is located in central Vietnam and
shares a 206-kilometer border with Laos. According to Le
Thanh Hien, Deputy Director of the Anti-smuggling Department
of Vietnam's General Department of Customs, Quang Tri is a
drug hotspot due to its proximity to Laos and trafficking
routes from the Golden Triangle. Hien said most drugs that
come into Quang tri originate in Laos. From Quang Tri,
drugs typically make their way north to Hanoi or south to Ho
Chi Minh City, either via Highway 1 or by train, he added.

---------------
CASE BACKGROUND
---------------

3. (U) According to the "Labor" newspaper, Quang Tri
counternarcotics police detected the case on June 9 near the
Lao Bao international border gate. They discovered a truck
entering from Laos had 40 kilogram of heroin hidden among
other goods. (Note: During all of 2002, GVN law
enforcement entities seized only about 55 kilograms of
heroin. end note) Section Chief Le Van Truong of MPS'
Counternarcotics Department, confirmed that this was the
biggest single seizure ever recorded in Vietnam.

--------------------
COULD THERE BE MORE?
--------------------

4. (U) According to Customs' Hien, MPS, the Border Army,
and Customs have now been tasked to investigate other
possible links to this seizure. Hien added that authorities
hope that the suspects arrested will lead them to other drug
activity in the area. He predicted that a trial would take
place in about six months, culminating in "several" death
sentences. (Note: Under Vietnam's drug law, anyone found
in possession of 100 grams or more of heroin may be
sentenced to death. End note)

-------
COMMENT
-------

5. (U) While relatively impressive, this seizure lends
credence to what DEA Hanoi Country Office, the UN, and
international law enforcement agencies have been saying for
years - the seizure rate in Vietnam is abysmally low
considering the estimated amounts of drugs transiting
Vietnam's long, porous borders with its neighbors. In
addition, the relatively little press coverage -- during
"drug awareness month" -- is both puzzling and
disappointing. Despite this successful seizure, there has
not been any noticeable change in MPS' general lack of
operational cooperation with DEA. Even several attempts to
obtain additional information regarding this specific
seizure have proven fruitless. As in the past, GVN
counternarcotics authorities have told DEA that Vietnam's
secrecy laws prohibit them from disseminating "sensitive
information" to foreign agencies.

6. (U) This message has been cleared by the DEA Hanoi
Country Office.
BURGHARDT

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