Cablegate: 2003 International Narcotics Control Strategy

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




E.O. 12958: N/A

REFS: A. HANOI 2622 B. HANOI 3288 C. HANOI 1504 D. HANOI
1885 E. HANOI 0827 F. HANOI 1043 G. HANOI 0353 H. HANOI 0549
I. HANOI 3239 J. HCMC 1233


1. (U) The Government of Vietnam (GVN) continued to make
progress in its counternarcotics efforts during 2003.
Specific actions included: sustained efforts of
counternarcotics law enforcement authorities to pursue drug
traffickers; increased attention to interagency
coordination; continued cooperation with the United Nations
Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); increased attention to
drug treatment and harm reduction; an increased tempo of
public awareness activities; and additional bilateral
cooperation on HIV/AIDS, an issue closely related to
intravenous drug use in Vietnam. Additionally, In December
2003 the GVN and the USG signed a long-delayed
Counternarcotics agreement. However, real cooperation with
DEA's Hanoi Country Office was minimal. Vietnam and the
U.S. should be able to use the new CNA to enhance bilateral
interaction. Ref I addresses money-laundering issues.

2. (U) Vietnam is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention,
the 1961 UN Single Convention as amended by the 1972
Protocol, and the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic
Substances. End Summary.


3. (U) By USG definition, Vietnam meets the legislative
criteria as a "major drug-producing" country (at least 1,000
hectares of poppy cultivation). However, GVN, UNODC, and
law enforcement officials do not consider cultivation a
major problem. The USG estimates 2,300 hectares of poppy
are cultivated in the northern and western provinces of Lai
Chau, Son La, and Nghe An, usually in remote mountain areas.
However, this estimate is based on a year 2000 USG imagery-
based survey. To the best of Embassy Hanoi's knowledge, the
USG has not updated the 2000 survey. Accordingly, it is not
possible to verify whether this figure is still accurate.
The GVN claims a much lower figure (94 hectares). Due to
the small amount of poppy cultivation, since 2000 official
UNODC statistical tables for illicit cultivation ceased to
list Vietnam separately; rather, the table considers Vietnam
within the category of "other Asian countries." Cultivation
in Vietnam probably accounts for about one percent of
cultivation in Southeast Asia, according to a law
enforcement estimate. There appear to be small amounts of
cannabis grown in remote regions of southern Vietnam.
Anecdotal evidence also suggests that there may be larger
commercial crops of hemp in remote regions in the south.

4. (U) Vietnam has not been considered a source or transit
country for precursors. According to DEA, Vietnam is
exporting relatively large quantities of sassafras oil, a
substance which has legitimate uses (for insecticides, soap,
and perfume) but which can also be used as a precursor for
the hallucinogen methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA). DEA
has in the past received reports that Vietnam-sourced
sassafras oil has been connected to European MDMA
production. Overall, the GVN is concerned in general about
precursors and has begun to take action. On May 29, the GVN
issued Decree 58, which deals with the control of, import,
export, and transit of drug substances, precursors,
addictive drugs, and psychotropic substances. According to
the decree, only businesses authorized by the Ministries of
Health (MOH), Industry, and Public Security (MPS) can
import/export drug substances, precursors, addictive drugs,
and psychotropic substances for specific, licit purposes.
The GVN has tasked MPS to coordinate with other concerned
ministries and agencies to manage and control the
import/export of these narcotic substances. In an effort to
support Vietnam's efforts to enhance its precursor control
capacity, the GVN and UNODC signed on December 1, 2003 a
project (G55) document titled "Interdiction and Seizure
Capacity Building with Special Emphasis on ATS and

5. (U) More significant drug issues in Vietnam are transit
and the rising popularity of amphetamine-type stimulants
(ATS). Heroin from the Golden Triangle and the PRC transits
Vietnam en route to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and, increasingly,
Australia. While UNODC views the PRC more as a source of
heroin and, increasingly, of tranquilizers used to cut
heroin for domestic use in Vietnam, the PRC is probably also
a destination for some Golden Triangle heroin transiting
Vietnam. DEA has not yet tied any drug seizures in the U.S.
directly to Vietnam, but reports that some may be entering
the U.S. via Canada. Concerning Australia, there were
several courier seizures of heroin destined for Australia,
demonstrating that Australia may be an increasingly
preferred destination for heroin transiting Vietnam. (Note:
See Drug Flow/Transit section below for more details. End

6. (U) It appears that some cannabis, heroin, and synthetic
drugs are entering Vietnam from Cambodia. Regarding ATS,
GVN authorities are particularly concerned over the rising
use among urban youth and, during 2003, increased the tempo
of enforcement and awareness programs that they hope will
avoid a youth epidemic situation similar to what has
occurred in Thailand. According to the Standing Office of
Drug Control (SODC), ATS and ecstasy (MDMA) are still
popular among the youth addict population, in addition to
the ever-rising demand for heroin. (Note: According to DEA,
these drugs may be methamphetamines rather than MDMA. End


Policy initiatives

7. (U) The structure of the GVN's counternarcotics efforts
is built around the National Committee on AIDS, Drugs, and
Prostitution Control (NCADP). Deputy Prime Minister Pham
Gia Khiem chairs NCADP, which includes a broad spectrum of
GVN ministries and mass organizations. Key officials
include four deputy chairpersons: Minister of Public
Security Le Hong Anh; Minister of Labor, War Invalids, and
Social Affairs (MOLISA) Nguyen Thi Hang; Minister of Health
Tran Thi Trung Chien; and Ha Thi Lien, Standing Member of
the Presidium of the Fatherland Front.

8. (U) According to UNODC, during 2003 the GVN continued to
focus on the drug issue. The drug issue poses a "real
headache" for the GVN, UNODC officials confirmed. This also
led to an increase in attention from the state-controlled
media. UNODC reported that in accordance with GVN strategic
plans, GVN officials, without foreign donor support,
undertook more study missions concerning drugs both within
the country as well as to regional neighbors than in
previous years.

9. (U) During a January conference organized by MOLISA
Prime Minister Phan Van Khai called on the entire political
system from the central to local levels to make a concerted
effort against drugs and prostitution. The National
Assembly (NA) in 2003 also called for more effective
measures against drug crimes and prostitution.

10. (U) According to MOLISA, in addition to national
programs and projects, provinces and cities have implemented
their own programs. Some examples are Tuyen Quang with its
effective "three stages" treatment model, Nghe An with the
goal of "demand reduction," Ho Chi Minh City with its "three
reductions" program, Danang with its "five nos" program, and
Haiphong with its "three nos" program.

11. (U) Maintaining the oft-repeated theme of international
drug control cooperation, in 2003 GVN representatives
routinely emphasized the importance of fighting drugs. In
particular, the GVN used the September 2003 Ministerial
Meeting of the Signatory Countries to the 1993 Memorandum of
Understanding on Drug Control to make an international media
splash with anti-drug speeches by Deputy Prime Minister Vu
Khoan and other luminaries (ref A). However, DEA has
reported that law enforcement agencies in Vietnam have still
never participated in a bilateral drug investigation with
any foreign country, while sometimes acting unilaterally
upon narcotics trafficking information provided by foreign
law enforcement agencies.

12. (U) Increasing efforts to support drug awareness and
prevention, demand reduction, and treatment of drug users
and addicts:

-- The GVN views drug awareness and prevention as a
significant objective in its fight against drugs as well as
an integral part of its effort to comply fully with the 1988
UN Drug Convention. The GVN has continued a steady drumbeat
of anti-drug propaganda, culminating in June's drug
awareness week (the week of June 23). During that week,
youth and mass organizations engaged in various activities
to spread the anti-drug message. These included art
contests/performances, speeches, street parades, displays of
posters/slogans, and signing of "drug free" commitments and
meetings/gatherings. Recently, state-controlled television
(VTV) and radio (the Voice of Vietnam) have begun regular
programs called "SOS Drugs" and have been airing a series of
anti-heroin spots. According to Lt. General Le The Tiem,
Vice Minister of Public Security, by June 10,000 anti-drug
news items and articles had already been covered on the
radio and in newspapers, and there were 14 anti-drug
programs on four official channels of VTV. In February
2003, municipal sectors, agencies and steering committees of
districts, communes, and wards in Hanoi increased local
information, education and communication activities. Hanoi
Television and the Voice of Hanoi also increased the time
volume on the current special program "Drugs SOS."
Authorities also strengthened implementation of the
community effort called "Search in Each Lane, each House for
each Drug Addict" by volunteers in Hanoi.
-- In May, Prime Minister Khai declared June 26 to be anti-
drug day, and June to be anti-drug month. On the occasion
of 2003 Drug Awareness Day, various activities took place
across the country. In Hanoi, around 2,000 people met at a
rally to celebrate anti-drug day in the City Park. Deputy
Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem, Fatherland Front President
Pham The Duyet, Hanoi Vice Mayor Nguyen Quoc Trieu, MPS Vice
Minister Tiem, MOH Vice Minister Pham Manh Hung, and UNODC
Representative Doris Buddenberg attended the event. An anti-
drug exhibition opened in Hanoi displaying photographs and
children's paintings about drugs and drug addiction
sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and Information (MCI),
the Vietnam Art Exhibition Center, and the Supervisory Board
on Population, AIDS, and Social Problems, on the same
occasion. Outside Hanoi, Youth Unions in 12 provinces of
the Mekong Delta organized a two-day jamboree in Can Tho.
Over 300 young people participated in art performances,
music shows, and athletic contests. They also met to
discuss drug and HIV/AIDS prevention among young servicemen,
farmers and workers. At another meeting to celebrate the
Day in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang, Women's
Union and Public Security forces in 18 southern provinces
and cities pledged to share their efforts to prevent and
combat drug addiction. Vice President Truong My Hoa
attended the ceremony.

13. (U) In December 2000, the NA passed a national law on
drug suppression and prevention. The law came into effect
June 1, 2001. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) was tasked with
working with MPS and other relevant agencies to review
existing counternarcotics legal documents and make
appropriate amendments to facilitate implementation of the
new law. UNODC is assisting the GVN to develop these
implementing regulations for the new law, which will allow
law enforcement authorities to use techniques such as
controlled deliveries, informants, and undercover officers.
During 2003, the GVN made some progress on developing these
implementing regulations. As of now, the GVN has made
public eight decrees related to the counternarcotics law.
These decrees:

-- list the narcotic substances and precursors;
-- guide the control of lawful drug-related activities in
-- stipulate the rehabilitation order, procedures, and
regimes for drug addicts consigned to compulsory
rehabilitation centers;
-- designate family organization and community-based
rehabilitation; and,
-- prescribe the regime of compensation and allowances for
individuals, families, agencies, and organizations suffering
life, health, and property damage while participating in
drug prevention activities.

One other key decree, concerning law enforcement, has
apparently been issued, but according to an MPS official, it
has not been made public due to its "sensitivity." During
2003, the GVN also issued four other decrees to:

-- stipulate the rewards and commendations for individuals,
families, agencies, and organizations recording achievements
in drug prevention;
-- assign responsibility on international cooperation in the
field of drug prevention;
-- add a number of substances to the list of narcotics and
precursors; and,
-- regulate the control of import, export and transit
transportation of illicit drugs, precursors, narcotic drugs
and psychotropic substances.

A preliminary analysis by a UNODC legal official concluded
that the decrees are "insufficient in terms of establishing
a proper drug control legal system," however. The decrees
tend to focus on drug control areas, which are "generally
less complex and controversial," the official added. There
is still a need for "new and proper" legal instruments in
areas such as procedures, conditions, systems for
investigations, international cooperation, extradition,
controlled delivery, and maritime cooperation, according to
the analysis. According to a senior drug treatment policy
maker, on December 2 the Prime Minister issued a decree on
the conditions for the private sector to run treatment
centers, and by early 2004, one more decree will be issued
to replace Decree 34, in line with the Ordinance on

14. (U) In addition to these four decrees, the GVN held
other meetings and workshops, including one workshop in
August commissioned by the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV)
on drugs and HIV/AIDS harm reduction. This unprecedented
conference included international organizations such as the
WHO as well as Vietnamese and foreign NGOs. During the
conference, the leader of the CPV Commission for Ideology
and Cultural Affairs called for effective measures to "save
the lives of those 153,000 people, who are being killed by
drugs." Participants noted that the recommendations of the
workshop would be sent to the "highest level" of the CPV for
consideration. In September, MOH organized a conference on
"HIV Prevention in Injection Drug Users: Scientific Evidence
and Best Practices" to inform ministerial and provincial
level officials on published evidence, and to discus the
outcomes of pilot interventions in Vietnam. The conference
also contributed to information for use in Vietnam's
national HIV/AIDS strategy through 2010. During the closing
discussions, MOH officials noted that support for HIV
prevention strategies in no way undermines the importance of
anti-drug strategies including supply reduction and demand

15. (U) The GVN continued to move forward in developing its
long-term counternarcotics master plan, with the assistance
of several foreign donors, including the U.S. and UNODC.
The current 2001 - 2005 plan of action includes the
following 13 projects:

-- building the national master plan for drug control
through 2010;
-- strengthening the capacity of the national coordinating
counternarcotics agency;
-- implementing crop substitution programs in Ky Son
District, Nghe An Province;
-- strengthening the capacity to collect and use drug
-- strengthening the capacity to prevent and arrest drug
-- building and completing a counternarcotics legal system;
-- educating students on drug awareness and prevention;
-- strengthening drug prevention activities in Vietnam;
-- preventing drug abuse among workers;
-- strengthening the capacity to treat and rehabilitate
-- preventing drug use among street children;
-- reducing the demand among ethnic people; and,
-- preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS among addicts through
demand reduction intervention.

16. (U) According to SODC, almost all of the projects are
ongoing with either foreign or domestic funding. SODC
officials claimed that the master plan until 2010 is
awaiting the Prime Minister's approval, and they expected
the plan to be finalized by late 2003 or early 2004. SODC
has also received support in the form of computers and a
network from the British Government. SODC also expressed
satisfaction with the effective implementation of the
(partially USG funded) Ky Son project (Phase II), and the
recent signing of a U.S.-funded project titled "Interdiction
and Seizure Capacity Building with Special Emphasis and ATS
and Precursors" between MPS and UNODC.

17. (U) According to SODC officials, the GVN at the
national level expended approximately USD 6 million for
counternarcotics activities in 2003. They confirmed that
the expenditure continues to increase, and noted that
spending at all government levels is many times higher. As
in past years, observers agree that overall lack of
resources nonetheless continued to be a major constraint in
counternarcotics activities.

18. (U) In 2003, Vietnam continued its efforts in regional
and multilateral law enforcement coordination, key elements
towards full compliance with the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
Vietnam has existing agreements and MOUs with the PRC,
Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Hungary, and Russia. In
January 2003, Vietnam issued new regulations on
international cooperation on counternarcotics, accompanied
by a decree signed by Prime Minister Khai. In June, Vietnam
hosted the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational
Crime (SOMTC). Representatives from the PRC, the U.S., the
ROK, Japan, the EU, and Interpol attended the meeting, in
addition to the ASEAN members. Also in June, Vietnam and
Thailand agreed to sign an anti-crime treaty, and the
Australian Federal Police (APF) opened an office in Ho Chi
Minh City. In July, Vietnam and Laos signed an MOU on drug
control cooperation for 2003. In December 2003, Vietnam,
Laos, and Cambodia met in Hanoi to review their
counternarcotics cooperation in 2003 and work out
cooperative measures and orientations for the coming year.
In June 2003, an annual meeting was organized in Thanh Hoa
to review the drug control cooperation of three provinces of
Thanh Hoa and Son La (Viet Nam) and Hua Phan (Laos). An MOU
on drug control cooperation for 2003 and the following years
was signed at the meeting. Regarding Thailand, NA Vice
Chairman Nguyen Van Yeu said on 18 August in Hanoi that
Vietnam sought closer cooperation with Thailand in the
combat against drug trafficking and addiction. During 2003,
according to the SODC, Vietnamese officials made 12 working
visits and study tours, mostly to the PRC, Burma, Laos,
Cambodia, and Thailand. 100 Vietnamese counternarcotics
officers were sent for training overseas and 1,000 other
drug law enforcement officers received training at home. In
September, Vietnam hosted the Senior Officials Committee and
Ministerial Meeting of the Signatory Countries to the 1993
Memorandum of Understanding on Drug Control. The three-day
meeting brought together Minister-level officials from
Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, the PRC, and Vietnam to
discuss key drug issues and review the status of the major
projects and subprojects that make up the Subregional Action
Plan on Drug Control. One of the main outcomes was to agree
to expand the Border Liaison Offices along the borders of
the signatory countries. Vietnam and China have already had
success in cross-border law enforcement liaison: in April
2003 the Vietnamese handed over a Chinese drug dealer to
Chinese authorities at the Mong Cai border crossing.

19. (U) Vietnam continued to cooperate with INTERPOL during
2003. Much of this cooperation involved assisting
authorities from Canada, Germany, and Australia to
investigate drug trafficking cases between overseas
Vietnamese and criminal organizations located in Vietnam.

20. (U) Multilaterally, Vietnam continued to work closely
with UNODC. In 2002, the GVN assumed management
responsibility for the second phase of the crop substitution
project in Ky Son, Nghe An province. In addition, Vietnam
continued to participate in a UNODC subregional project for
strengthening cross border coordination with its neighbors,
as part of the action plan mentioned in Paragraph 18.

21. (U) During 2003, DEA's Hanoi Country office and Embassy
Hanoi reported that, despite repeated statements affirming
that law enforcement cooperation is a key component of the
drug war, GVN law enforcement authorities, especially the
counternarcotics police, did not provide meaningful
cooperation to DEA's Hanoi country office. In addition, DEA
reported that, due to existing MPS policies, DEA agents have
not been permitted officially to work with GVN
counternarcotics investigators. Generally, cooperation was
limited to receiving information from DEA and holding
occasional meetings. Thus far, the counternarcotics police
have declined to share information with DEA or cooperate
operationally. GVN officials generally classify drug
information as "secret," subject to national security
regulations, and explain this as the main reason for their
inability to cooperate more fully with DEA (Ref b). Even
with new "implementing regulations" to buttress the 2001
law, Counternarcotics Department (CND) and other drug
enforcement agencies remain limited as to what they can
achieve in their investigations and the impact they can make
on the drug trade in Vietnam. CND officers target mostly
low-level drug distributors who remain within the narrow
grasp of their authority and investigative capability.
Unfortunately, even well intentioned CND officers may not
act independently when conducting investigations and
utilizing their authority. According to the DEA, the GVN
needs to update and relax its restrictive polices regarding
the exchange of drug related information with foreign
agencies, so that real law enforcement cooperation can occur
in Vietnam.

22. (U) On a more positive bilateral note, in December the
GVN made some significant concessions in the terms of a long-
awaited letter of agreement on counternarcotics activities
between the U.S. and Vietnam; the agreement was signed in
Los Angeles by Vice Foreign Minister Le Van Bang and
Ambassador Burghardt on December 11 during the visit of
Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan. The new agreement will
allow for greater bilateral cooperation, especially in the
area of training.


23. (U) In 2003, Vietnam continued to make progress in
achieving full compliance with the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
The GVN implemented four new decrees, with one concerning
regulations on the control of import, export, and transit
transportation of illicit drugs, precursors, narcotic drugs
and psychotropic substances, as part of the 2001
counternarcotics law. On May 29, the GVN issued Decree 58,
which deals with the control of import, export, and transit
of drug substances, precursors, addictive drugs, and
psychotropic substances. According to the decree, only
businesses authorized by the Ministries of Health, Industry,
and Public Security can import/export drug substances,
precursors, addictive drugs, and psychotropic substances for
specific, licit purposes. The GVN has tasked MPS to
coordinate with other concerned ministries and agencies to
manage and control the import/export of these narcotic
substances. As implementing regulations are developed for
the counternarcotics law, the GVN should enhance its
capacity to engage in counternarcotics activities within an
appropriate legal framework. The work begun in 2002 and
continued in 2003 on the national master plan for
controlling precursor chemicals is also an important step in
this direction.

24. (U) In March, the GVN held a national conference to
review counternarcotics and anti-prostitution work in 2002
and work out plans for 2003. Prime Minister Khai spoke at
the conference. In his speech, Khai emphasized the need for
deeper awareness of the consequences of drug abuse and cited
this problem as one of impediments to the development of the
country. The Prime Minister called for strong law
enforcement measures against drugs, especially by:

-- Strengthening and deepening education programs to raise
the public awareness;
-- Ensuring proper state management at all levels through:
(1) stricter implementation of the GVN's poppy
elimination policy;
(2) better coordination among concerned authorities,
including at local level, to reduce supply and demand;
(3) closer coordination among the police, army, and
customs in controlling and preventing drug flows;
(4) tighter control over businesses and services that
can be easily taken advantage for drug use and trafficking;
(5) rewards and fines where appropriate and necessary.
-- Reorganizing and strengthening the drug enforcement
apparatus at all levels;
-- calling on the central standing committee of Vietnam
Fatherland Front and its member organizations actively to
participate in encouraging the attendance by the entire
public in "the campaign to detect and combat social evils."

25. (U) According to Cong An Nhan Dan (People's Police)
newspaper, the Prime Minister issued an official letter to
launch a nationwide counternarcotics drive during the anti-
drug month of June. The letter called on all ministries,
offices, and provincial people's committees to make a
concerted effort against drugs. According to SODC, two
other nationwide drives -- in March and in September --
also took place in 2003.

26. (U) SODC also assessed highly the importance in 2003 in
the fight against drugs as well as towards full compliance
with the 1988 UN Drug Convention of the passage by the NA of
Decision no. 356, approving the establishment of Department
of Crime Statistics in the Supreme People's Procuracy.

Law enforcement efforts

27. (U) According to GVN 2003 seizure statistics (January 1
to September 30), heroin seizures increased by about 350
percent; marijuana seizures were up by over 40 percent;
and, the area of poppy cultivated declined from about 315
hectares to 94 hectares, which the Ministry of Agriculture
and Rural Development (MARD) attributed to tougher
suppression efforts in mountain areas, especially the
northwestern provinces of Son La and Lai Chau, which account
for 60 percent of re-cultivation. The total number of
registered addicts rose from 131,000 to 152,900, an increase
of about 17 percent. According to SODC, the actual number
of addicts in the country (including non-registered addicts)
is certainly "many times higher."

28. (U) The GVN continued a policy of strict punishment for
drug offenses. Seizures of opium, heroin, and amphetamine-
type stimulants (ATS) increased during the reporting period.
The GVN has continued to arrest and prosecute drug
traffickers in 2003. According to GVN statistics, during
the first nine months of calendar year 2003, there were
10,000 drug cases with 16,000 suspects arrested. If
projected over the entire year, this represents a reduction
of 8.7 percent in the number of cases and 9 percent in the
number of suspects arrested, however. DEA and other law
enforcement entities remain concerned that most arrests
involve relatively low-level street dealers.

29. (U) Drug laws remain very tough in Vietnam. Possession
of 100 grams of heroin or 5 kilograms of opium gum or
cannabis resin or 75 kilograms of cannabis or opium plants
may result in the death penalty. For possession or
trafficking of 600 grams or more of heroin, death by a seven-
man firing squad is "mandatory," according to another press
report. Despite the tough laws, SODC reported, "drug
trafficking continues to rise."

30. (U) During the year, Embassy Hanoi reported several
large drug cases (refs c, d, and e). In Quang Tri (one of
the central provinces of Vietnam that borders Laos), a drug
ring was exposed in June after Quang Tri provincial
counternarcotics police seized 40 kilograms of heroin on a
truck entering Vietnam from Laos via Lao Bao border gate.
(Note: During all of 2002, GVN law enforcement entities
seized only about 55 kilograms of heroin. End note) During
a second, more complete searchlater in the month,
authorities uncovered an additional 33 kilograms of heroin
hidden under 10 tons of scrap metal on the same truck. In
another major case, Ho Chi Minh City counternarcotics police
arrested eight people on charges of smuggling a record
amount of 462 kilograms of heroin over the course of the
year. According to Ho Chi Minh City Counternarcotics
Police, the eight traffickers included the chief of Nghe An
Province's Tuong Duong District Counternarcotics Police.
The group smuggled the heroin from Laos through Nghe An to
southern provinces for consumption. The police suspect that
the traffickers are linked with other organized criminal
syndicates in Asia. A third major case was the trial of 25
suspects in Lai Chau Provincial Court on charges of
trafficking 89.65 kilograms of heroin between 1996 and 2001.
Despite these high-profile cases, lack of training,
resources, and experience both among law enforcement and the
judiciary continue to plague Vietnamese counterdrug efforts,
according to law enforcement sources and UNODC.

31. (U) Foreign law enforcement sources do not believe that
major trafficking groups have moved into Vietnam.
Relatively small groups -- perhaps five to 15 individuals,
who are often related to each other -- usually do most
narcotics trafficking. As Vietnam becomes a more
"attractive" transit country, larger trafficking groups
could become more prominent, according to DEA.

32. (U) Resource constraints among GVN counternarcotics
police continued to be a major problem during 2003
especially among provincial counternarcotics police. Even
SODC -- the national office for coordinating all
counternarcotics activities -- lacked a database computer
system until December 2002, when the British Government
provided this assistance. Embassy visits to Quang Ninh,
Lang Son, An Giang, and Can Tho provinces revealed that
counternarcotics police (and all local police) work with a
significant lack of resources, especially specialized
equipment. Officials in the Cambodian border province of An
Giang told emboffs that, in the rainy season, when the
border area floods enough to permit boat traffic over a
large body of water that forms over rice paddies along the
border, policing the border is nearly impossible because the
customs and border police have only a single boat (ref J).
Officials in these and other provinces have consistently
told emboffs that they would welcome additional US equipment
and training.

33. (U) On 18 June, the General Department of Customs
(Ministry of Finance) and the General Department of Police
(MPS) signed a protocol for cooperation in the combat
against smuggling, commercial fraud, cross-border
trafficking of illicit drugs, contraband and counterfeit

34. (U) The GVN continued to focus on narcotics-related
corruption, making policy statements that made it clear that
corruption would not be tolerated and would be severely
punished, including the removal and prosecution of corrupt
officials. However, the UN, law enforcement agencies, and
even the GVN continue to view corruption in Vietnam as an
endemic problem that exists at all levels and in all
sectors. In public statements, the GVN and CPV take a
strong stand against corruption in general, but have not
singled out narcotics-related corruption for specific
attention. Colonel Bui Xuan Bien, the director of SODC,
confirmed that "any GVN official who violates laws about
corruption" would be prosecuted. A major criminal case
(that of "Mafia" chief "Nam Cam" and 154 other defendants in
Ho Chi Minh City) included charges of corruption, in
addition to crimes such as murder, assault and gambling.
Two defendants had been expelled from the Communist Party of
Vietnam's Central Committee in 2002 in connection with this
case; one of these had also been an MPS Vice Minister.
Another defendant had been the Deputy Supreme Prosecutor.
154 defendants were found guilty, including numerous police
officials. There were six death sentences and a variety of
other prison sentences, including life imprisonment. On the
day of the verdict, one of Nam Cam's top syndicate
officials, Nguyen Van Hoa, and seventeen others were
arrested in Japan for trafficking in heroin, according to
press reports. In March, nine MPS officials were found
guilty of bribery. In June, the People's Court in Quang Nam
province in central Vietnam sentenced the director of a
state-run construction company to life imprisonment for
embezzlement. In another case, President Tran Duc Luong
rejected leniency pleas from two former executives sentenced
to death for a scheme to "appropriate state property through
graft," according to a May press report.

35. (U) Senior GVN officials continue to speak out against
corruption. In late January, Prime Minister Khai visited
MPS and emphasized the need to fight all crime and
corruption. In March, the Prime Minister said that
officials who "turn a blind eye to drug-related crime will
be punished." In February, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(MFA) spokesperson said in response to a question that the
GVN considers the fight against corruption "an important
task." During a meeting in Hanoi, State President Tran Duc
Luong called for an organizational revamp of the judiciary
and sought greater efficiency and morality from its
personnel to enhance the quality of trials.

36. (U) During 2003, three counternarcotics police officers
in Hanoi were prosecuted for taking bribes from drug dealers
who were arrested on charges of trafficking 300 kg of opium
and 39 bricks of heroin from Lai Chau. Another example was
Dao Van Thanh, Chairman of Hanoi's Thanh Xuan Trung Ward
People's Committee, who was arrested for involvement in
illicit drug trafficking. His wife and his sister were also
captured while selling 50 cartons of Bromazepam (diazepam)
illegally to a drug store. Subsequently, a house search
revealed 3,119 cartons more. The seizure included in total
93,570 tablets of Bromazepam, USD 5,900, Lao Kip 1 million
and a Toyota Landcruiser. According to Hanoi Health
Service, there are 1,500 private pharmacies in the city now,
of which only 100 are permitted to sell psychoactive

37. (U) Vietnam does not encourage or facilitate illicit
production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs
or other controlled substances, or the laundering of
proceeds from illegal drug transactions. Recognizing the
need for more anti-corruption assistance, the GVN signed an
agreement with Sweden in September 2002 for research on
socio-economic policy and anti-corruption measures. Under
the USD 2.7 million project, scheduled to run from the end
of 2002 through 2005, Sweden will provide resources to
assist Vietnam in developing appropriate anti-corruption
policies. While the official agreement is with the Ministry
of Planning and Investment, the actual partner is the CPV
and, according to an official of the Swedish Development
Corporation, the program is "quite sensitive." A diagnostic
study on how to implement the program "should be started by
the end of the year."

38. (U) Embassy has no information linking any senior
official of the GVN with engaging in, encouraging, or
facilitating the illicit production or distribution of such
drugs or substances, or the laundering of proceeds from
illegal drug transactions. Concerning narcotics-related
corruption, the GVN did demonstrate a willingness in 2003 to
prosecute officials, though the targets were relatively low-

39. (U) According to UNODC, "narcotics-related corruption
is only a very small part of overall corruption." However,
significant levels of official corruption exist in Vietnam.
Both the GVN and the CPV have made combating corruption one
of their top priorities, and senior officials have made
unambiguous statements that not only must officials not
engage in corruption but that they will be held personally
responsible for such wrongdoing by their relatives and
subordinates as well. No such cases have yet been made
public, however.

Agreements and treaties

40. (U) With the exception of the recently-signed
Counternarcotics LOA, the USG has no extradition, mutual
legal assistance, or precursor chemical agreements with
Vietnam. The LOA includes two specific counternarcotics
training projects. The GVN has also repeatedly expressed an
interest in negotiating a mutual legal assistance treaty
with the USG.

41. (U) Vietnam is a party to three UN Drug Control
Conventions, including the 1961 Single Convention on
Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic
Substances, and the 1988 Convention Against Illicit
Trafficking in Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

42. (U) To further its compliance with the 1988 UN Drug
Convention, Vietnam moved ahead in 2003 to increase both
operational and formal cooperation with neighboring
countries and countries in the region. From November 27-30,
a delegation of Cambodia's Ministry of the Interior led by
Department Director General Lieutenant General Vann Noy paid
an official visit to Vietnam. During the exchange, the two
sides discussed measures to strengthen cooperation between
Vietnam's MPS and Cambodia's Ministry of Interior in
maintaining security along the border and combating crimes,
including drug trafficking. The counternarcotics police of
Vietnam and Thailand separately pledged further to tighten
cooperation in combating drug trafficking and abuse in
Southeast Asia. During a visit to Thailand by a delegation
of Vietnam National Drug Control Office, MPS Vice Minister
Tiem held talks with his Thai counterpart on drug related
issues. Tiem and his delegation members also attended
seminars on drug law enforcement and studied Thailand's drug
enforcement apparatus and its measures to root out drug
offenders, especially recent campaigns in Bangkok and
northern Thailand. According to a January 2003 "People's
Police" press report, from 1998 to the end of 2002 the GVN
sent 122 delegations, including over 700 counternarcotics
police officials, to overseas training and/or conferences.
According to SODC and press reports, in March MPS Vice
Minister Tiem also visited the PRC and discussed bilateral
drug cooperation with the leadership of the PRC's Drug
Control Committee. In February, another GVN delegation
traveled to Thailand to attend a regional conference on
controlling opium poppy cultivation. In April, Vietnamese
and Lao provincial counterparts from Nghe An and Laos'
Xiengkhouang provinces met to improve cross-border
counternarcotics cooperation. In June, Vietnam hosted the
ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime
(SOMTC) and Counterterrorism as well as separate SOMTC+EU,
SOMTC+China, SOMTC+3, and SOMTC+US sessions. The meetings
included a discussion on regional drug issues. Specifically,
the Burmese delegation discussed the need for an enhanced
regional approach.
43. (U) Vietnam has counternarcotics agreements and MOUs
with seven other countries: Burma (March 1995), Thailand
(November 1998), Russia (October 1998), Hungary (June 1998),
Cambodia (June 1998), Laos (July 1998), and China (July
2001). In 1993, with UNODC support, Vietnam signed regional
counternarcotics MOU with the PRC, Laos, Burma, Thailand,
and Cambodia. The six "MOU states" agreed to cooperate on
counternarcotics activities and, with UNODC's help, better
coordinate their law-enforcement efforts, especially along
the borders. Vietnam is currently precluded by statute from
extraditing Vietnamese nationals, but the GVN is
contemplating legislative changes, according to an MFA
official. However, at the request of the USG (and in
accordance with the 1988 UN Drug Convention), Vietnam
acceded to two rendition requests (one each from the FBI and
US Customs) and returned two non-citizens to the U.S., where
they were wanted for various white collar and money
laundering crimes.


44. (U) The GVN and UNODC confirm that opium is grown in
hard-to-reach upland and mountainous regions of some
northwestern provinces, especially Son La, Lai Chau, and
Nghe An Provinces. According to USG sources, the total
number of hectares under opium poppy cultivation has been
reduced sharply from an estimated 12,900 hectares in 1993,
when the GVN began opium poppy eradication, to 2,300
hectares in 2003. (Note: The 2003 USG estimate is the same
as 2000 because, to the best of Embassy Hanoi's knowledge,
no satellite survey has been performed since 2000. End
Note.) UNODC and law enforcement sources do not view
production as a significant problem in Vietnam. While the
GVN does not admit that drugs are produced in the country,
Nguyen Ngoc Tam was sentenced to death in Ho Chi Minh City
on April 18 for involvement with a Taiwan-led drug ring that
produced hundreds of kilograms of methamphetamines in a
clandestine laboratory in Tan Thoi Hiep, Hoc Mon (Ho Chi
Minh City). There have been unconfirmed reports in past
years -- and more recent DEA intelligence information --
concerning probable indication on limited ATS production, as
well as some seizures of equipment (i.e., pill presses).
Recultivation appears to be a minor problem in the
northwest. According to senior MARD official, almost 100
hectares of poppy recultivation were found (and 90 percent
eradicated) during 2003 in Son La, Lai Chau, Yen Bai, Lao
Cai, and Nghe An provinces in areas where opium had been
previously eradicated. The official said that Son La and
Lai Chau are responsible for 60 percent of the
recultivation. Concerning cannabis, there appears to be a
small, but persistent cultivation problem in Dong Nai, An
Giang, Binh Thuan, and Dong Thap provinces in southern
Vietnam. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that there may
continue to be commercial crops of hemp in remote regions in
the south.

Eradication/crop substitution

45. (U) As part of its efforts fully to comply with the
1988 UN drug convention, the GVN continued to eradicate
poppy when found, and to implement crop substitution,
introducing other crops such as mandarin oranges, tea,
cinnamon, plums, herbs, hybrid corn, potatoes, and soybeans
to replace opium poppy cultivation. Concerning eradication,
based on Embassy provincial visits and the UNODC, the GVN
appears sincere in its poppy eradication efforts. However,
GVN officials have admitted that complete eradication is
probably unrealistic, given the remoteness of mountainous
areas in the northwest and extreme poverty among ethnic
minority populations who sometimes still use opium for
medicinal purposes.

46. (U) There is a major UNODC crop substitution project
(with significant USG support) ongoing in the Ky Son
district of Nghe An province, one of the drug "hotspots" in
northern Vietnam. This project, currently in its second
phase, includes a crop substitution/alternative development
component, where various types of fruit trees and other
enterprises, such as beekeeping, have been implemented in
areas formerly dedicated to poppy. UNODC representative
Doris Buddenberg viewed the first phase as "successful,"
with an increase in agricultural production and
corresponding drop in drug activity. Based on an Embassy
monitoring visit in April (ref f), there has been progress
in the livestock and agricultural models (the focus of USG
assistance); however, the selection process of those
receiving project assistance was not clear, a problem that
UNODC is now addressing. A similar project planned in Son
La province, another drug area along the Lao border, will
not proceed. Prior to the proposed project signing, the GVN
requested an alternate project location and more autonomy in
administering the project. UNODC declined to meet the GVN's
requests; after deliberation, UNODC decided not to proceed.

47. (U) In addition to Ky Son, the MARD has continued to
support projects in various provinces. The GVN, through
MARD, independently supports crop substitution projects in
other provinces, including Hoa Binh, Yen Bai, Ha Giang, Cao
Bang, and Lang Son. The GVN has tasked MARD to develop a
national crop substitution proposal to include in the GVN's
2001-2010 Master Plan. To avoid indirectly encouraging
poppy cultivation through subsidies for eradication, the GVN
has placed all crop substitution subsidies under national
programs to alleviate poverty in poor, mountainous regions.
Apart from the foreign-funded crop substitution projects,
according to a senior MARD official, this program (program
135) is designed to promote rural development, targeted at
especially poor, mountain communes in Vietnam. According to
a press report, in the four years of the program's
implementation, the communes have already received VND 4,100
billion (USD 266 million) and an additional VND 274 billion
(USD 17.8 million) from the line ministries, various
sectors, local governments, and mass organizations. The
funds were used for 14,000 work items to build roads,
schools, and health stations. The program also helps
decrease the number of poor households by 5 percent each
year. According to the MARD official, the program has
played a crucial role in weaning rural farmers from
dependence on poppy crops.

48. (U) According to MPS Vice Minister Tiem, poppy
cultivation has been reduced sharply in the previous decade.
Poppy cultivation has existed in 153 mountain communes in 30
districts of eight northern and western provinces of Cao
Bang, Yen Bai, Lao Cao, Lang Son, Nghe An, Lai Chau, Son La,
and Hoa Binh. Marijuana crops are scattered in some
localities in the south, Tiem also admitted. The GVN,
through MARD, independently supports crop substitution
supports projects in other provinces, including Hoa Binh,
Yen Bai, Ha Giang, Cao Bang, and Lang Son. During 2003, the
GVN tasked MARD to develop a national longer-term crop
substitution proposal to include in the GVN's 2001-2010
Master Plan. To avoid indirectly encouraging poppy
cultivation through subsidies for eradication, the GVN has
placed all crop substitution subsidies under national
programs to alleviate poverty in poor, mountainous regions.
According to MARD officials, they have requested a 30
percent increase from the Ministry of Finance in MARD's
allocation under the national poverty alleviation program.

49. (U) During 2003, MARD continued to develop future plans
for crop substitution. In November, MARD sponsored two
seminars in Son La and Yen Bai to review
eradication/substitution efforts and to plan for 2004 and
beyond with representatives from districts where the
recultivation issues are most acute. According to a senior
MARD official, topics discussed included:

-- continuing eradication efforts;
-- ensuring sufficient food for people (especially ethnic
minorities) located in remote, poppy-growing areas; and,
-- developing incentives to encourage local people to farm
terraced rice, grow tea, cultivate fruit trees, and raise
cows and bees.

Two more conferences on poppy elimination and alternative
development took place in December. One in Dien Bien city
in the newly-created Dien Bien province included
representatives of 12 mountain provinces including the "hot
spot" provinces of Son La, Lai Chau, Lao Cai, Yen Bai, and
Nghe An. The conference looked at the eradication effort
and worked out measures to better address the recultivation
issue. The second conference,cosponsored by MARD and the
Ethnic Affairs Committee, took place in Thanh Hoa to discuss
and learn from past experience and map out future plans for
more effective substitution programs.

50. (U) When well-executed, crop substitution appears to be
a viable program that also assists ethnic minority people in
Vietnam's poorer, mountainous regions.

Drug flow/transit

51. (U) While law enforcement sources and UNODC believe
that significant amounts of drugs are transiting Vietnam,
DEA has not yet identified a firm case of heroin entering
the U.S. directly from Vietnam, although it appears some may
be entering via Canada and Australia. More commonly, drugs,
especially heroin and opium, enter Vietnam from the Golden
Triangle, making their way to Hanoi or especially to Ho Chi
Minh City, where they are transshipped by air or sea to the
Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Australia.
According to Vietnam Television (VTV), in one case, 17 drug
runners were arrested in Japan. Nguyen Van Hoa was the
ringleader who asked his subordinates to smuggle in 1.4 kg
of methamphetamines to Japan via Osaka airport in January
2003. The gang was reported to have links with Nam Cam
criminal syndicate. In another case, Ho Chi Minh City
Customs Service at Tan Son Nhat Airport discovered nearly
700 grams of heroin hidden under the soles of a pair of
sport shoes worn by a Vietnamese woman named Nguyen Anh Minh
while she was completing formalities for an international
flight. Minh admitted trafficking heroin from Hanoi to Ho
Chi Minh City to smuggle into Taiwan. Every month since the
beginning of 2003, she carried at least one shipment to
Taiwan, police said. Vietnamese police "cooperated" with
their Taiwanese counterparts to bust the entire drug ring.

52. (U) UNODC and DEA also believe that significant amounts
of heroin and ATS are entering Vietnam from the southern PRC
province of Yunnan. The GVN has separately reported ATS
shipments entering the country via Malaysia, Hong Kong,
Laos, and Cambodia. Australian Federal Police (AFP) sources
have reported concern over heroin and methamphetamines
arriving in Australia from Vietnam via couriers. There
appear to be increasingly strong ties between drug criminals
in Vietnam and the Vietnamese community in Australia.
According to reports from AFP, many Vietnamese-Australians
were involved in drug trafficking from Ho Chi Minh City to
Australia. Ho Quang Vinh was arrested on April 10 while
trafficking 949 grams of heroin concealed in two cartons of
"Craven A" cigarettes. An AFP official in Hanoi reported
that 18 narcotic drug shipments from Vietnam to Australia
were discovered and 30 drug traffickers were arrested in
2003. Some of the examples are:

-- Nguyen Thi Kim Hieu, a Vietnamese-Australian, received
life imprisonment from the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court
for trafficking 811 grams (28 ounces) of heroin. Hieu was
also fined 6,500 US dollars at the March 18 trial. Hieu had
been arrested at Tan Son Nhat international airport as she
boarded a flight to Sydney with the heroin concealed in six
packages beneath her clothing. She told the court that a
fellow Vietnamese-Australian had paid her around 35,000
Australian dollars (20,000 US dollars) to transport the
drugs to Sydney;
-- Two other Vietnamese-Australian sisters were found
guilty of trafficking heroin and given prison terms by a
court in Ho Chi Minh City on June 12. Phan Thi Kim Phuong
escaped the death penalty but was sentenced to life in
prison, while her 14-year-old sister, Phan Ngoc Viet Phi,
was given four years behind bars. Phuong was paid USD
50,000 to smuggle the heroin out of Vietnam to Australia.
The two sisters were arrested at Tan Son Nhat airport as
they were preparing to board a flight to Sydney with 656
grams of heroin hidden in their clothing;
-- Two Vietnamese-Australians -- Nguyen Manh Cuong and Mai
Cong Thanh -- were arrested for possessing over 2 kg of
heroin on June 17 in Ho Chi Minh City. The heroin was
hidden in 76 loudspeakers found at a factory raid in Tan
Binh district, packed and ready to be shipped to Australia.
Police said Cuong admitted to sending heroin to Australia
successfully on many occasions. His latest shipment was
carried out in May, when he sent 110 loudspeakers packed
with heroin to the U.S. via Australia.
-- Martin Pham, a Vietnamese-Australian, was arrested at
Moc Bai border gate in Tay Ninh province when he was
attempting to cross the border to Cambodia. Pham was
identified as the kingpin of a drug trafficking organization
of Vietnamese-Australians. The gang bought drugs in
Cambodia, carried them through Vietnam and then continued to
-- Another Vietnamese-Australian was arrested on July 3 in
a hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. He was identified as a focal
point for collecting and storing heroin in Vietnam before
sending it to Australia by sea;
-- Vietnamese-Australian Quach Tieu Buu and Tay Chin Kheng
from Singapore were jailed for 20 years for drug dealing in
Vietnam. The pair was convicted by a court in Ho Chi Minh
City of trafficking nearly 1,500 pills, including Ecstasy.
Prosecutors asked for life sentences;
-- A Frenchman, Andro Stephane Michel Auguste, was
sentenced to 20 years in prison on May 22 by Ho Chi Minh
City People's Court for trying to take 317 grams of heroin
out of the country;
-- Ho Chi Minh City narcotics police charged two Canadians
with possession of a large stash of ecstasy tablets. Gandy
James Sachf and Nguyen Van Hai (also known as Sheena) were
accused of smuggling 1,000 ecstasy pills from Europe into
Vietnam, where they sell for about VND 200,000 (USD 13) a
-- Police arrested Dang Van Thanh and Nguyen Van Tuan in
Tay Ninh province near the Cambodian provinces of Svay Rieng
and Kompong Cham. They allegedly belonged to a gang of drug
traffickers that smuggled more than 100 kg of heroin into
Vietnam. An official from Cambodia's Ministry of Interior
said that the two governments are communicating about drug
trafficking and that the two men arrested in Vietnam may be
linked to drug smugglers who trafficked 24 kg of heroin to
Australia in April;
-- A 40-year-old Chinese citizen, Zhu Bo Lin, was arrested
in December in Binh Chanh District of Ho Chi Minh City for
trafficking 350 kg of cannabis purchased in Cambodia. The
police said Zhu admitted to ties with a Vietnamese group
that regularly deals in cannabis grown in Cambodia;
-- On September 1, the Counternarcotics Police arrested
Huynh Yen Penh (alias A Ty), a Cambodian national who was
the kingpin of a drug ring trafficking heroin from Cambodia
to Vietnam. Earlier in mid-2003, Tay Ninh border army units
had arrested members of his gang smuggling hundreds of
heroin bricks across the border.

53. (U) According to Phap Luat (Law) newspaper, ketamine has
emerged this year in Hanoi and other major cities. Law
enforcement agencies gave warnings of the spreading use of
ketamine in nightclubs and discotheques, and called for
stricter control of diversion from legal sources. According
to SODC, the government issued a separate decree in November
to include ketamine and other newly emerged drugs in the
list of prohibited substances. In addition, Tai Ma is an
herbal drug recently available in Hanoi in the form of twigs
of leaves with tiny seeds. It is smoked on tobacco-pipe and
has cannabis-like effects. Another type that was recently
reported in Vietnam is a yellow-color, odorless extract of
opium called Hong bi. This new drug was trafficked across
the border between Vietnam and China.
54. (U) According to Cong An Nhan Dan (People's Police)
newspaper, although the number of trafficking cases went
down, the seriousness of the cases increased. The ATS flow
into the country during 2003 became increasingly
complicated, especially in border areas. Along the Vietnam
- Laos border, authorities seized 95.2 kilograms of heroin,
169.4 kilograms of opium, and 12,320 doses of ATS,
respectively accounting for 68 percent, 64 percent, and 49.2
percent of this year's entire total. For the Vietnam -
China border, the problem was mainly in Lang Son, Cao Bang,
Quang Ninh, and Lao Cai, where most of the drugs trafficked
are addictive pharmaceuticals, opium, and cannabis. The
seizures were 5.9 kilograms of heroin, 65.5 kilograms of
opium, 295 kilograms of cannabis, and 56,399 tablets and
vials of addictive pharmaceuticals, respectively accounting
for 4.2 percent, 25 percent, and 24 percent of this year's
entire nationwide amount. Lastly, on the border between
Vietnam and Cambodia, the most serious cases were in Tay
Ninh, Dong Thap, Long An, Kien Giang, An Giang, and Binh
Phuoc provinces. Law enforcement agencies investigated 310
cases with 700 suspects, and seized 4.14 kilograms of
heroin, 4,521 doses of ATS, 551 kilograms of cannabis, and
100,905 tablets and vials of addictive pharmaceuticals,
respectively accounting for 26 percent of the number of
cases, 3.6 percent of the number of suspects, 3.2 percent of
the heroin amount, 18 percent of the volume of ATS, and 43
percent of the amount of addictive pharmaceuticals
nationwide. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are still seen as
"hotspots" for transit and consumption. During calendar
year 2003, authorities in the two cities investigated 3,519
cases with 5,883 suspects, and seized 20 kilograms of
heroin, 5,556 doses of ATS, and 100,088 tablets and vials of
addictive pharmaceuticals, respectively accounting for 29.8
percent of the number of cases, 30.6 percent of the number
of suspects, 14.2 percent of the heroin amount, 22.2 percent
of the volume of ATS, and 42 percent of the amount of
addictive pharmaceuticals nationwide.

55. (U) Transporting drugs by air and mail continued in
2003. During the year, foreign police agencies shared
intelligence with their Vietnamese counterparts, leading
seizures of 60 kilograms of heroin in Taiwan, 20 kilograms
of heroin by the Australian police, and 30 kilograms of
heroin in the PRC. In addition, the number of addicts in
Vietnam increased by 10,000 over 2002. 51 out of 64
provinces and cities nationwide now admit to having addict
populations. Police forces have promised better to
coordinate with the customs and border army authorities to
prevent drugs flowing in through the border and ports.
Drugs are also transiting Vietnam from Laos via Nghe An
Province and on to Vinh City, which serves as a major port
for land-locked Laos. The drugs then follow similar routes
as described above. Since there is considerable legitimate
commerce from Laos, law enforcement sources reported that it
is fairly easy to employ different concealment techniques.
Some drugs also arrive from Laos and Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh
City and then are transshipped to Singapore, Malaysia, and
other countries in the region.

Domestic programs/demand reduction

56. (U) The GVN views demand reduction as a key component
of the fight against drugs as well as an integral part of
its efforts fully to comply with the 1988 UN Drug
Convention. Within the GVN, MCI is responsible for public
drug control information and education among the general
population. The Ministry of Education and Training (MOET)
carries out awareness activities in schools. Anti-drug
material is available in all schools and MOET sponsors
various workshops and campaigns at all school levels. In
November, NCADP announced that, authorities had received
over 25 million entries for a nationwide contest on "knowing
the drug law." In its 2003 drug activity report, SODC
reported that the border forces played an "active role" in
disseminating anti-drug information to border villages and
communes. Activities included sponsoring contests, such as
art projects, to demonstrate local commitment against drugs.
On several provincial trips, emboffs heard from local
citizens (not in the presence of GVN officials) that they
are aware of drug issues through media campaigns directed at
the general public as well as school students, and also of
the connection between intravenous drugs and HIV/AIDS.
Emboffs have observed anti-drug billboards in virtually
every town visited.

57. (U) UNODC views GVN drug awareness efforts in 2003
"more or less the same" as in 2002, while assesesing that
Vietnam has already done a "good job" in this endeavor.
According to UNODC, awareness efforts have mostly been on
the "formality" level, however, so these efforts have had
minimal impact on the addict and HIV/AIDS population.
Behavior modification is still a problematic issue for the
GVN. UNODC believes that the challenge for Vietnam is how to
implement awareness campaigns more regularly at the
grassroots level, and better encourage the participation of
the youth population. According to UNAIDS and the GVN, just
under 70 percent of cumulative HIV/AIDS cases in Vietnam are
related to injection drug use. Furthermore, HIV
surveillance indicates that nationwide, 30 percent of
injection drug users are HIV-infected; this percentage is
much higher (60-80 percent) in Ho Chi Minh City and the
northeastern provinces. Recognizing the close link between
drug use and HIV/AIDS, the GVN in 2003 continued a public
information campaign regarding HIV/AIDS awareness and the
connection between drugs and HIV/AIDS. The GVN continued a
long-standing campaign of anti-drug posters all around
Vietnam, and Vietnamese television and radio have increased
the pace and volume of anti-drug and HIV/AIDS warnings
through a continuing series of advertisements featuring
popular singers and actors.

58. (U) Vietnam has a network of drug treatment centers
(refs g and h). According to MOLISA, with three new
facilities in Binh Phuoc (2) and Hanoi (1), there are now 74
centers at the provincial level, and 7,100 treatment
facilities at lower levels. The provincial centers have a
capacity of between 100 to 3,000 addicts each. Haiphong and
Son La are now building centers. In the southern province
of Ba Ria Vung Tau, the People's Committee is investing VND
97 billion (USD 6.3 million) in a new treatment center in
Xuyen Moc District's Hoa Hiep Commune, where 2,000 drug
addicts, prostitutes, and HIV/AIDS patients will receive
vocational training. The center will also house about 478
family members. Haiphong organized a ground-breaking
ceremony for a treatment center in Gia Minh commune, Thuy
Nguyen district on March 27 . The center has a total area
of 103 hectares with a maximum capacity of 1,000 drug
addicts. Initial investment is VND 72.48 billion (USD 4.7

According to MOLISA Vice Minister Dam Huu Trac, Vietnam's
treatment goals for 2003 include:

-- treatment and post-treatment supervision for 60 percent
of the registered addicts;
-- reduction of the relapse rate by 10 percent;
-- in provinces such as Quang Tri, Quang Binh, Thua Thien
Hue, Gia Lai, Kon Tum, Quang Nam, Tra Vinh, Phu Yen, Binh
Dinh, and Binh Thuan (where addiction is not a serious
problem), treatment of 100 percent of the addicts and a goal
of no addicts by 2005;
-- treatment of at least 60 percent of the addicts in other
-- investment to upgrade and expand existing centers.

59. (U) To encourage the treatment effort, Prime Minister
Khai visited Nhi Xuan Center for Education, Vocational
Training and Employment (for addicts), in Ho Chi Minh City
in February. The Prime Minister spoke highly of the
achievements by the center and praised the seriousness of
the staff.

60. (U) In an interview by An Ninh Thu Do (Capital Security)
newspaper, Director of Hanoi Social Evils Prevention Branch
Nguyen Vi Hung said that there are only six rehabilitation
centers in Hanoi City, but the municipality plans to build
more centers to provide treatment to 5,000 drug addicts.
According to Hung, there are now 12,536 drug addicts in
Hanoi, of whom 1,500 are in jails, 3,500 are in treatment
centers, and 7,500 are receiving "community treatment."
Hung said the city planned to increase the current capacity
to 8,000 beds by 2006. In addition, the Hanoi People's
Committee has decided to build a new drug rehabilitation
center and expand six others to cope with increasing numbers
of drug addicts. The new center will be located at Ba Vi
district, Ha Tay province.

61. (U) Over the past two years, Ho Chi Minh City has
allocated VND 500 billion (USD 32.3 million) for its "Three
Reductions" campaign against drug abuse and trafficking,
prostitution, and crime. The city revealed the figure at a
conference reviewing the program's first two years. Much of
the fund was used to build, repair, and/or upgrade 18
centers for 28,000 drug addicts and sex workers. Another
23,000 drug addicts received treatment at home under the
supervision of local authorities. According to Tuoi Tre
(Youth) newspaper, Ho Chi Minh City now has 37,423 addicts,
an increase of 7,423 over 2002. Out of that number, 33,577
are in treatment facilities.

62. (U) SODC officials have admitted that the centers are
often inadequate, and that the high recidivism rate is
"unacceptable." Based on a number of visits throughout the
year, Embassy agrees that drug center conditions range from
good (in Ho Chi Minh City) to under construction (Lang Son
province, Can Tho City). Community-based drug treatment
outside of centers is spotty; counselors are expected to
make visits to addicts being treated at home and provide
advice and some medicines, if needed, but services are

63. (U) No such escapes from drug treatment centers have
been officially reported in 2003, unlike in 2002. However,
according to a senior MOLISA official, the escape rate for
2003 was 10 percent. This problem has occurred mainly in Ho
Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Yen Bai, and Quang Ninh; 3,300 addicts
escaped in Ho Chi Minh City alone in 2003.

64. (U) During its June 2003 session, the NA approved a five-
year pilot project on post-treatment vocational training
developed by the Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee.
However, Deputy Chair of the NA Legal Commission Nguyen Van
Thuan pointed out two "problematic" issues related to "legal
aspects" and "human rights," notably keeping drug users
beyond the drug law's two-year compulsory treatment, was
illegal. According to Nguyen Hoang Mai of the NA's Social
Affairs Committee, the goal of the program is to try to
reduce the relapse rate (generally estimated at about 80
percent for all categories of drugs, similar to western
countries, with the relapse rate for heroin and other
narcotics considerably higher) by providing recovering
addicts with more skills that would enable them to assume
"productive lives after treatment." NA Chairman Nguyen Van
An said that the pilot project, begun on August 1, is being
implemented in Ho Chi Minh City and other major provinces
and cities, according to press reports, following the Prime
Minister's approval. According to the project document, the
training and employment of rehabilitated drug addicts will
be undertaken on "voluntary" basis. However, those who do
not volunteer but run high risk of relapse will be compelled
to stay. In the third quarter of 2003, Ho Chi Minh City
sent 400-500 recovering drug addicts to work in the Nhi Xuan
industrial park. Between 2003-2005, the city will send
13,500-16,000 former drug users to the industrial complex
specifically designed for post-drug rehabilitation.

65. (U) Deputy Prime Minister Khiem held a meeting with Ho
Chi Minh City municipal officials on September 9 to review
the program. The municipality reported that 27,898 drug
addicts had been placed in rehabilitation centers by
September 5. Over VND 500 billion was injected to the
program to construct new buildings and upgrade and expand 18
rehabilitation centers to accommodate 30,000 drug addicts.
The design for the industrial parks and "new urban areas" in
Nhi Xuan, Hoc Mon District and An Nhon Tay, Cu Chi District
had been completed. The Nhi Xuan industrial park will
provide jobs to 12,000 workers, of which 5,000-6,000 will be
former drug users. 28 enterprises and businesses in Ho Chi
Minh City have cooperated with 18 rehabilitation centers to
provide employment opportunities. 20 more enterprises and
companies have plans to employ post-rehabilitation workers.

66. (U) According to MOLISA, the nation's rehabilitation
center system has undertaken detoxification and
rehabilitation for 54,760 drug addicts. Among them, 27,000
were carried over from year 2002. Ho Chi Minh City has the
largest number of participants, with 8,500, followed by
Hanoi with 3,500. Despite these efforts, the number of drug
users receiving treatment remains proportionally small.
Only 46,723 cases were treated last year, accounting for
32.9 percent of registered drug users nationwide. In order
to overcome this situation, many provinces such as Hanoi,
Thanh Hoa, Hai Phong, Son La, Ho Chi Minh City, and Ha Tay
are constructing or expanding their rehabilitation centers.
The biggest obstacle for rehabilitation is job creation and
post-rehabilitation monitoring. In the last 9 months, only
68 out of 9,068 post-rehab addicts obtained employment.

67. (U) According to a senior MOLISA official, Nguyen Minh
Triet, Secretary of the Ho Chi Minh Municipal Party
Committee, said publicly that he "could bet his political
career on the success of the program," but the project has
not been completely successful. The MOLISA official pointed
out that keeping the recovering addicts in "employment
parks" is a way of applying administrative punishments
through "detention" in a way that fails to ensure the
detainees' human rights.

68. (U) Vocational training in the centers remains uneven,
ranging from fairly good to nonexistent. In Yen Bai
province, there is widespread participation in carpentry,
tailoring, tree planting, and construction training. In
Quang Nam province (central Vietnam), on the other hand,
there was no training available. Staff training at the
centers is generally limited to on-the-job, due to lack of
resources. Neither of these problems is likely to be
resolved in the foreseeable future. Inadequate funding
plagues drug treatment centers, similar to many other public
institutions in Vietnam. This does not appear to have
changed during 2003. On a more positive note, Ho Chi Minh
City announced in September it would be adding nearly USD
800,000 to its anti-drug campaign, much of it aimed at drug
awareness and treatment.

69. (U) HIV/AIDS is a serious and growing problem in
Vietnam and one that is closely related to intravenous drug
use. At least 60-70 percent of known HIV cases are related
to injection drug use, and in some intravenous drug user
(IDU) populations the HIV prevalence rate exceeds 80
percent, according to GVN statistics. In February, NCADP
organized a national conference to review HIV/AIDS work in
2002. Vice President Truong My Hoa and Deputy Prime
Minister Khiem attended the meeting. According to reports
at the conference, HIV/AIDS cases exist in all provinces and
cities, and at least 61 percent of the carriers are due to
intravenous drug use. Vice President Hoa urged the entire
society to gather strength against the "century epidemic"
via different programs. During 2003, Vietnam continued its
efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic through the
following activities:

-- September 3-14, a GVN delegation traveled to the U.S.
for a study tour to observe HIV prevention programs for
IDUs, co-sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) and the Ford Foundation. The
delegation, led by MOH Vice Minister Hung, included high
level officials from the MPS, MOH, and MOJ, who visited
various HIV prevention programs in New York City (including
programs for incarcerated populations at Rikers Island);
community outreach strategies; and drug abuse treatment
programs including methadone maintenance (Bronx Clinic);
-- From September 30 to October 2 in Hanoi, Vietnam and the
U.S. co-organized a major conference on HIV/AIDS prevention.
The conference was chaired by MOH and supported by the
CDC/Global AIDS Program (GAP). Participants focused on
measures to prevent drug addicts from acquiring and
transmitting HIV/AIDS;
-- In a meeting with UNDP chief representative Jordan Ryan,
Deputy Prime Minister Khiem asked the UNDP to help Vietnam
form an effective HIV/AIDS prevention strategy to fend off
the rapid spread of the disease. Khiem stressed that the
epidemic is one of the most pressing issues facing the
Government of Vietnam;
-- During the June Session of NA, Nguyen Thi Hoai Thu,
Chairperson of the NA's Commission of Social Affairs, called
for stronger combat against "social evils" (usually drugs,
prostitution, and trafficking in persons) and HIV/AIDS to
ensure sustainable development. Ms. Thu also urged the line
ministries, particularly MPS and MOLISA, to improve inter-
ministerial cooperation;
-- The largest drug treatment center in southern Vietnam --
Binh Phuoc Drug Rehabilitation and Vocational Training
Complex -- opened in May 2003; it plans a 100-bed ward for
drug addicts infected with HIV/AIDS;
-- HIV infection among drug users and solutions to curb the
infection were discussed in the "Scientific-Practical
Workshop on Drug and Reduction of HIV/AIDS Transmission:
Situation and Solution" organized by the CPV's Central
Commission of Ideology and Cultural Affairs on August 20.
According to the presentation made by MPS representatives,
the number of registered drug users has increased from 2000
to the end of June 2003 by 50 percent, from 104,000 to
153,000; the real number is believed to be even higher.
Over 70 pct of these are IDUs. According to national
"sentinel" surveillance, overall HIV infection in this group
is 30 percent, with HIV prevalence peaking at up to 80
percent in some provinces. At least 60 pct of the
cumulative 69,000 people with HIV detected in Vietnam thus
far have a risk factor linked to injection drug use.
According to a MOLISA report, 90 pct of sex workers in
rehabilitation centers had used drugs in the past and 20-30
pct were dependent on drugs. In the conclusion of the
workshop, Dr. Dao Duy Quat, the Vice Chairman of the CPV's
Commission of Ideology and Cultural Affairs, reaffirmed that
the situation of HIV infection among drug users and the risk
of transmission to the wider community in Vietnam was
alarming and that harm reduction is an effective and
affordable approach. He also advocated the promotion of
condom use among high-risk groups to avoid HIV transmission
to the wider community;
-- MOH organized a conference on September 26 in Hanoi to
gather comments on the 5th draft of the national strategy
for HIV/AIDS control until 2010. The draft contains an
exclusive chapter in advocacy for harm reduction including
high-risk behavior-change communication, needle and syringe
exchange, and substitution drug treatment. Vietnam has set
a target to keep the infection rate under 0.3 per cent;
-- As of the end of 2003, the GVN estimated that there were
80,000 people infected with HIV; 11,000 cases of full-blown
AIDS; and 6,065 deaths from AIDS-related diseases. Because
HIV testing in Vietnam is still limited, current numbers of
HIV infected persons are greatly underestimated. However,
based on current figures, the number of HIV-positive people
in Viet Nam is projected to be 197,581 in 2005 and 350,975
in 2010. With support from international donors, MOH is
currently re-estimating these projections. The new
estimates have not yet been released, but unofficial reports
suggest they will be higher;
-- In a recent decree, Prime Minister Khai decided to give
a special allowance to army soldiers and national defense
officials who manage, educate, care for, or give medical
check-ups to people with HIV/AIDS. Soldiers and national
defense officials infected with HIV/AIDS on the job will get
check-ups and treatment and enjoy preferential policies as
"sick soldiers." Part of the decree specifies that they
will be recognized as martyrs when they die;
-- MOH issued a directive on HIV/AIDS prevention during the
22nd Southeast Asia Games calling for increased
accessibility to condoms at drug stores, groceries,
cigarette kiosks, tea stalls, and among peddlers. More
syringes were also put on sale at the pharmacies. IEC
outs carrying messages of HIV prevention in Vietnamese and
English were widely distributed in public places such as
hotels, rest houses, playing fields, and bus stops.

70. (U) GVN authorities appear to recognize the problem and
are cooperating with the USG and other donors. USAID has a
USD 4 million HIV/AIDS program, administered through several
non-governmental organizations. USAID's funding level will
rise to USD 6 million in 2004. However, USAID has also
recommended that the GVN "dramatically increase its
commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS," including adopting
additional national public health policies and a multi-
sectoral approach.

71. (U) CDC has a five-year USD 10 million program with
ongoing HIV/AIDS technical assistance bilateral program
through CDC/GAP. According to CDC, during 2003, the GVN
continued stronger support for HIV prevention programs,
including voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) and
community outreach in speeches and media. Thus far, CDC has
funded 20 anonymous MOH VCT programs in separate provinces
over the past 12 months, with plans to expand to 35
provinces by September 2004. With these programs, more than
7,000 persons have already been HIV-tested, of whom 23
percent are HIV-infected. CDC/GAP has also supported MOH in
community outreach programs for IDUs in 15 provinces; in
these, trained peer educators have made over 9,000 contacts
with IDUs, providing HIV prevention education and referral
to VCT or other services. On the GVN's part, some major
cities (i.e., Ho Chi Minh City) have established additional
VCT sites at local levels, and one VCT center supported by
Family Health International (FHI) recently opened in Hanoi
at the national Bach Mai hospital. (Note: GVN officials at
the central and provincial levels take great pains to refer
to drug addicts and users as well as HIV/AIDS patients as
"victims" rather than criminals. End Note.)

72. (U) Since 1998, USAID funding totaling USD 13 million
has supported a large-scale prevention, mitigation and care,
and support-focused HIV/AIDS program, predominantly through
its Global IMPACT Project, implemented by Family Health
International. This program focuses its comprehensive
interventions in three high-prevalence provinces, targeting
high-risk groups. Key partners include MOH, Provincial AIDS
Committees, as well as CDC. Additionally, USAID is
supporting national policy development through the POLICY
Project, including assistance to the GVN on its National
HIV/AIDS strategy and its Ordinance review. USAID programs
also support advocacy for People Living with HIV/AIDS, a
study on the impact of stigma and discrimination, and the
development of Leadership Advisory Groups to raise awareness
and to reduce stigma and discrimination. USAID's funding in
the period 2004-2007 is expected to reach approximately USD
25 million.

73. (U) Planned or ongoing GVN actions include:

-- opening 20 VCT sites, with 15 more are anticipated by the
end of 2004;
-- three new peer education programs have been initiated,
13 more were opened during 2003 and five more are
anticipated by 2004;
-- two new outpatient clinics for HIV care and treatment
have been opened for diagnosis and management of
opportunistic infections;
-- 31 provinces currently support surveillance sites that
monitor the spread of HIV/AIDS among a cross-section of the
population; and,
-- the GVN is working with the USG and other foreign donors
in the areas of HIV management and care, diagnosis and
management of opportunistic infections, and assessing the
evidence for HIV prevention for injecting drug users. Also
included among this action are behavioral surveillance,
stigma reduction, and policy development and enforcement at
the central level, as well as capacity building at the
central and provincial government levels.

74. (U) In 2003, Vietnam and the U.S. completed and signed a
bilateral counternarcotics agreement. The agreement
included counternarcotics and law enforcement projects
totaling USD 333,390. It represents the first direct
bilateral counternarcotics program assistance to Vietnam.
The USG currently funds training annually for some GVN law
enforcement officers and other officials involved in the
legal arena for courses at the International Law Enforcement
Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok. During calendar year 2003, U.S.
Embassy Hanoi sent 49 law enforcement officers for training
at the Academy.

75. (U) The USG also contributes to counternarcotics
efforts through UNODC. During 2003, the USG made
contributions to two projects: "Measures to Prevent and
Combat Trafficking in Persons in Vietnam," and "Interdiction
and Seizure Capacity Building with Special Emphasis on ATS
and Precursors."

Other ongoing UNODC projects:

-- National Drug Control Masterplan (USD 100,000 USG
contribution; Sweden and Italy are also donors). This
ongoing project is intended to assist the NCADP to develop a
2001-2010 masterplan for controlling drugs. According to
SODC, the Plan is now ready for the Prime Minister's
-- Ky Son Phase Two, a socio-economic development project to
replace opium poppy cultivation. (USD 635,000 USG
contribution; Germany, Luxemburg, Sweden, and Japan are also
donors.) This project began in 2002 and is intended to
build on the success of Phase One in establishing drug
demand reduction programs among ethnic minority people in a
remote area of Nghe An province, adjacent to the Lao border.
The three project components include community development,
alternative development, and infrastructure development.
-- Project Vie/B85 on prevention of drug abuse among ethnic
minorities in northern Vietnam (Son La, Lai Chau and Lao
-- Vie/03/G61 on strengthening the existing working models
and establishing a new innovative partnership with local
NGOs for community-based prevention of high risk behavior
related to IDU (coordinated by UNAIDS);
-- Project R21 on Trafficking in Persons (U.S. is one of the

The road ahead

76. (U) The GVN is acutely aware of the threat of drugs and
Vietnam's increasing domestic drug problem. However, there
appears to be continued suspicion of foreign law enforcement
assistance and/or intervention, especially from the U.S., in
the counternarcotics arena. This is one of the factors
impeding progress in counternarcotics law enforcement.
During 2003, as in previous years, the GVN made progress
with ongoing and new initiatives aimed at the law
enforcement and social problems that stem from the illegal
drug trade. Notwithstanding a lack of meaningful
cooperation with DEA, the GVN continued to show a
willingness to take unilateral action against drugs and drug
trafficking. Vietnam still faces many internal problems
that make fighting drugs a challenge. With the conclusion
of the counternarcotics LOA, the USG can look forward to
enhanced counternarcotics cooperation, and DEA involvement
in LOA-related training activities could open the door to
improved cooperation with that agency.






-- 3. OPIUM.



ERADICATION 94 315 200






SEIZURES 2003 2002 2001

E/F.OPIUM 254.3 462.62 535.55
G. HEROIN 239.8 53.87 33.35
H. CANNABIS 329.3 234.6 1,281
(ATS) 25,686



-- 10. ARRESTS.



2003 2002 2001

10,000/16,000 11,057/17,873 10,739/18,040

-- 11. USERS.



2003 2002 2001

152,900 131,000 104,669

© Scoop Media

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