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Cablegate: Counternarcotics Efforts in Vietnam's Nw Highlands

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
SUBJECT: Counternarcotics Efforts in Vietnam's NW Highlands

Reftel: 04 Hanoi 1584

1. (SBU) Summary: Lao Cai is a significant transportation
route for narcotics between Vietnam and China, Provincial
Counternarcotics Police Director Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen
Xuan Ngoai told the Ambassador on April 23. His unit, which
receives some USG funding routed through the United Nations
Office of Drug Control (UNODC) (reftel), has increased its
quantity of drugs seized, but is not able to disrupt the
rising flow of narcotics. The province has been effective
in countering poppy cultivation. Lao Cai's success rate in
treating narcotics users is only two to three percent, and
the province seeks international advice on how to improve
this. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Lao Cai Provincial Counternarcotics Police Director
Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Xuan Ngoai told the Ambassador on
April 23 that the province is susceptible to narcotics
traffickers who exploit its long and open border with China,
as well as its two border gates and rail and waterway
connections. The province has been designated by the
Central Government as a "center of narcotics trafficking and
consumption," which allows for special assistance for its
efforts to deal with narcotics smuggling and use.

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3. (SBU) Lao Cai's counternarcotics efforts are controlled
through an interagency task force that includes police,
customs and border guard officers. There are a total of 65
police officers dedicated to narcotics interdiction and
another 13 in the counternarcotics section of the border
police. The police have 15 officers specifically trained in
drug interdiction efforts through programs in Hanoi and in
France. The Lao Cai police also cooperate with their
counterparts across the border in China's Yunnan Province.
In 2004 and 2005, the Lao Cai police made 172 drug-related
arrests in 143 different cases, seizing 3.2 kg of heroin,
8.4 kg of opium and 750 packets of assorted narcotics.

4. (SBU) Lao Cai has three treatment centers and 2,367
officially registered drug users, although officials
recognize the actual number is likely higher. About 60
percent of addicts are ethnic minorities, who have a
tradition of small-scale opium production for personal use,
while 40 percent are addicts living in urban areas. Opium
has been the most widely used drug in the province, but
heroin use is increasing rapidly. To deal with drug
consumption, authorities have focused on education, poppy
eradication and treatment for drug users. Eradication
efforts have combined public awareness campaigns with a
program to provide seedlings of new crops and animals as
replacements for poppy cultivation. As a result, poppy
cultivation has ceased in Lao Cai, Ngoai claimed.

5. (SBU) To treat addicts, Lao Cai has three centers, one of
which receives some support from a United Nations project.
In 2004, the province processed 440 drug users in these
centers. Treatment programs run for 12 months. Lieutenant
Colonel Ngoai estimated that the success rate for treatment
is two to three percent, and said that, more than any other
area, he needed international support and advice in
improving drug treatment. (Ngoai defined "success" as
refraining from drug use for at least 12 months.)

6. (SBU) Despite the province's efforts, Ngoai predicts that
drug shipments will continue to rise in the region. He
noted that while the police are dealing with fewer cases
than in the past, the total quantities they have seized are
increasing. Further, the number of drug users in the
province is increasing, and the police have not been able to
effectively disrupt drug trafficking rings.

7. (SBU) Provincial leaders from the Northwest Highlands
provinces of Dien Bien, Lai Chau and Lao Cai also provided
some perspective to the Ambassador on narcotics production,
shipment and use. In Dien Bien, the People's Committee Vice
Chairman claimed that programs to deal with poppy
cultivation have resulted in the crop's being eradicated in
the province. The province has "aided" farmers in switching
to growing corn instead. Lai Chau provincial officials
characterized the major narcotics shipment route in the
region as being between Laos and Dien Bien Province. Lai
Chau has a single narcotics treatment center that gives
addicts a two-week program and can help place them in
special employment programs. The People's Committee
Chairman of Lao Cai Province noted that the region's long
and porous borders made countering trafficking in narcotics
difficult, and that foreign support in this area is welcome.


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