Cablegate: Vietnam - 2009 International Narcotics Control Strategy

DE RUEHHI #1184/01 3090828
O R 050827Z NOV 09



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Vietnam - 2009 International Narcotics Control Strategy
Report, Part 1

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1. The Government of Vietnam (GVN) continued to make progress in
its counternarcotics efforts during 2009. 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
both drug treatment and harm reduction; continued public awareness
activities; and additional bilateral cooperation on HIV/AIDS.
Operational cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration's (DEA) Hanoi Country Office has improved, but
further progress is still needed in order to achieve significant
results. Vietnam is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

Status of Country


2. Trafficked drugs included heroin, opium, cannabis and
Amphetamine Type Stimulants ATS (methamphetamine and ecstasy).
Police also reported the emergence of crystal methamphetamine (ice)
on local markets. Various types of ATS manufactured in Cambodia,
China, Lao PDR, Burma and Thailand were smuggled into Vietnam for
local consumption. No specific data for 2009 is available on the
total amount of illicit drug crop cultivation; however, estimates
suggest that opium poppy cultivation remains sharply reduced from
an estimated 12,900 ha in 1993, when the GVN began opium poppy
eradication. Cultivation in Vietnam probably accounts for only
about one percent of the total cultivation in Southeast Asia,
according to law enforcement estimates. Official UNODC statistical
tables no longer list Vietnam separately with major drug production
countries in drug production analyses. Small amounts of cannabis
are reportedly grown in remote regions of southern Vietnam. Prior
to 2008, DEA had no evidence of any Vietnamese-produced narcotics
reaching the United States nor was Vietnam a source or transit
country for precursors. However, more recent information indicates
that precursor chemicals and Ecstasy are beginning to be shipped
from Vietnam into Canada for eventual distribution in the United
States. The dual use chemical, Safrole, (sassafras oil from which
ecstasy can be produced) is not produced in Vietnam, but it is
imported into Vietnam for re-export under controls to third
countries. The potential for diversion of sassafras oil into
clandestine ecstasy production remains an area of concern. In
2009, the GVN continued to view other Golden Triangle countries,
primarily Burma and Laos, as the source for most of the heroin
supplied to Vietnam. GVN authorities are particularly concerned
about rising ATS-Amphetamine-type Stimulants use among urban youth.
During 2009, the GVN continued enforcement and awareness programs
that it hopes will enable Vietnam to avoid a youth synthetic drug
epidemic. Resource constraints in all aspects of narcotics programs
are pervasive, and GVN counternarcotics officials note that, as a
developing country, Vietnam will continue to face resource
constraints for the foreseeable future, despite annual budget
increases for counternarcotics efforts.

Country Actions against Drugs in 2009


3. Policy Initiatives. The structure of the GVN's
counternarcotics efforts is built around the National Committee on
AIDS, Drugs and Prostitution Control (NCADP), which includes 18 GVN
ministries and Communist Party affiliated organizations as members.
In addition, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), as NCADP's
standing member, has a specialized unit to combat and suppress drug
crimes, and the Standing Office for Drug Control (SODC) under the
MPS is responsible for assisting the Minister of Public Security,
as the Vice Chairman of NCADP, in advising the Government on
development and multi-sector coordination of drug control policies.
The SODC also maintains an information unit for collecting and
maintaining data on drug trafficking and other drug-related crimes.

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In June 2008, the National Assembly passed a revised Law on
Amendment and Supplement to the Law on Drugs Prevention and
Control, which delineates in more detail the responsibilities of
law-enforcement authorities, including police, border army,
maritime police, and customs, in preventing drug use and
controlling drug supply. The law also stipulates that HIV harm
reduction activities to be consistent with the HIV/AIDS Law of
2006. The new law came into effect in January 2009, with
implementation ongoing throughout the year.

4. The Government placed the counter-narcotics issue high on its
agenda, and has established a National Drug Control Target Program
that aims to improve Vietnam's legal system and policies, build
drug control capacity, and streamline and reform interagency drug
control coordination. The Program also seeks to increase the
involvement of civil society in drug control and promote
international cooperation.

5. The GVN continues to emphasize drug awareness and prevention
and views education and demand reduction as integral parts of its
effort to comply fully with the 1988 UN Drug Convention. During
2009, many provinces and cities continued to implement their own
drug awareness and prevention programs, as well as demand reduction
and drug treatment. The GVN continued to rely heavily on
counternarcotics propaganda, culminating in the annual drug
awareness month in June 2009. Officially sponsored activities cover
every aspect of society, from schools to unions to civic
organizations and government offices. In 2009, the GVN continued
its ongoing effort to de-stigmatize drug addicts in order to
increase their odds of successful treatment, and to help control
the spread of HIV/AIDS.

6. Law Enforcement Efforts. According to SODC, by the end of
September 2009, there were almost 11,000 drug cases involving
16,000 suspects. Total seizures included 280 kg of heroin, 60 kg of
opium, 500 kg of cannabis, 700,000 ATS tablets, 1 kg of ketamine,
and 800,000 tablets and 8,000 ampoules of addictive
pharmaceuticals. Drug laws remain very tough in Vietnam, with a
mandatory death penalty for possession or trafficking of 600 grams
or more of heroin, or 20 kg of opium gum or cannabis resin. Drug
crimes were often connected to money laundering and other crimes
such as robbery, homicide, firearms trafficking, counterfeit
trafficking and human trafficking. Foreign law enforcement sources
do not believe that major trafficking groups have moved into
Vietnam; however, Vietnamese law enforcement authorities have
raised the issue of West African crime syndicates establishing a
presence in Vietnam. U.S. law enforcement officials report that
West African criminal organizations are utilizing Vietnam as an
operational center to coordinate the trafficking of Southeast and
Southwest Asia heroin. Additional information revealed that West
African criminal organizations in Pakistan are also recruiting
couriers, many of whom are Vietnamese nationals, to traffic heroin
from Pakistan to Vietnam and to China through Vietnam.

7. Foreign law enforcement representatives in Vietnam state that
operational cooperation on counternarcotics cases is limited
largely due to legal prohibitions and policy restrictions that
largely preclude Vietnam's drug enforcement authorities from
sharing information and supporting bilateral investigations with
foreign police agencies. However, there is some operational
cooperation on a case-by-case basis. While changes in Vietnamese
law are necessary to provide a legal and procedural basis for more
comprehensive, systematic cooperation with foreign law enforcement
agencies, U.S. law enforcement agencies noted that agency-to-agency
agreements have made cooperation on individual cases easier. During
2009, cooperation between GVN law enforcement authorities and the
DEA remained consistent with the experience in 2008, with
counternarcotics police sharing only basic investigative
information on a case-by-case basis.

8. Corruption. As a matter of GVN policy, Vietnam does not
encourage or facilitate the illicit production or distribution of
narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or
the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. No

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information known to U.S. law enforcement agencies specifically
links any senior GVN official with engaging in, encouraging or
facilitating the illicit production or distribution of drugs or
substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug
transactions. Nevertheless, a certain level of corruption is
consistent with the fairly large-scale movement of narcotics into
and out of Vietnam and is likely occurring both among lower-level
enforcement personnel and higher-level officials. The GVN
demonstrated a willingness to prosecute some corrupt officials on
narcotics related offenses, although most of the targets were
relatively low-level.

9. Agreements/Treaties. 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.
Vietnam has signed, but has not yet ratified, the UN Convention
against Transnational Organized Crime.

10. Vietnam ratified the UN Corruption Convention on June 20,
2009. Vietnam issued a statement saying it would not be held to
item 2, Article 66 of this convention. This item stipulates that if
disputes on the explanation and application of the convention
cannot be solved by negotiation or arbitrators, members have the
right to bring the case to the international private law court.
Vietnam also stated to it would not adhere to some optional
regulations, such as criminalizing illegal money-making acts,
corruption in the private sector, the use of special investigative
techniques, which Vietnamese laws do not cover. In addition,
Vietnam does not consider this convention as a direct legal
foundation for the extradition of corruption-related criminals;
extradition must be based on Vietnamese laws.

11. In February 2004, the United States signed a Letter of
Agreement (LOA) with the Government of Vietnam on Counternarcotics
Cooperation to facilitate U.S. Government funded counternarcotics
programs in Vietnam. On November 16, 2006, DEA and MPS signed a
non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to facilitate
cooperation, including information sharing, coordinated operations,
and capacity building. DEA and MPS anticipate extending the MOU for
three more years.

12. Cultivation/Production. During the 2008-2009, authorities
nationwide detected and destroyed 45 hectares of poppy plants,
primarily in the border provinces of Son La, Lao Cai, Yen Bai, Lai
Chau, Lang Son, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Ha Giang and Dong Nai, and 1
hectare of marijuana. No specific data for 2009 is available on the
total amount of illicit drug crop cultivation; however, estimates
suggest that opium poppy cultivation remains sharply reduced from
an estimated 12,900 ha in 1993, when the GVN began opium poppy
eradication. There have been some recent confirmed reports that ATS
and heroin have been produced in Vietnam. Local ATS production
relies on ATS powder brought from outside the country, which is
then processed into pills. GVN law enforcement forces have seized
some ATS-related equipment (i.e., pill presses). As part of its
efforts to comply fully with the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the GVN
continued to eradicate poppies when found and to implement crop
substitution. There were, however, some reports of drug refining
and trafficking in heroin among hill tribes along the border with

13. Drug Flow/Transit. U.S. and foreign law enforcement sources
along with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) believe that
significant amounts of drugs are transiting Vietnam. Drugs,
especially heroin and opium, enter Vietnam from the Golden Triangle
via Laos and Cambodia by land, sea and air, making their way to
Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, either for local consumption or
transshipment to other countries such as Australia, Japan, China,
Taiwan and Malaysia. An increasing two-way drug trafficking between
Vietnam and China was noted; narcotic drugs and ATS from China to
Vietnam, while heroin from the northwest border area was smuggled
inside Vietnam before transporting to China. Traffickers in major
drug cases reported to police investigators that heroin was
trafficked to China to supply drugs for local consumption. Heroin
was also trafficked from Cambodia to Vietnam. Law enforcement

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detected Taiwanese traffickers and overseas Vietnamese in Australia
smuggling drugs into Vietnam before transporting them to Australia,
Hong Kong and Taiwan. Drug trafficking by air was conducted through
Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat airport.

14. The ATS flow into the country during 2009 continued to be
serious and not limited to border areas. ATS can now be found
throughout the country, especially in places frequented by young
people. ATS, such as amphetamine, ecstasy, and especially "ice"
methamphetamine (crystal methamphetamine), and other drugs such as
diazepam and ketamine continue to worry the government and rank
with heroin and cannabis as the most popular drugs in Vietnam. Such
drugs are most popular in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other major
cities. During 2009, numerous cases involving ATS trafficking and
consumption were reported in the media.

15. Drug traffickers have become more sophisticated in recent
years and today transport drugs by air, land, sea, and post; employ
modern hi-tech communication equipment; change mobile phone sim
cards; and enlist drug users, pregnant women, children, and
HIV-infected people as couriers and retailers. U.S. and foreign law
enforcement sources estimate that 85 percent of drug traffickers
were former convicts, HIV-infected and drug addicts. 70 percent of
traffickers are between18 and 35 years of age and as many as 25
percent of traffickers are female. Traffickers engaged in violence,
and in many instances fought back against law enforcement.

16. Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction. Several ministries
undertake demand reduction activities, which include the
distribution of hundreds of thousands of counternarcotics leaflets
and videos, and organized counternarcotics painting contests for
children. The Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) carries out
awareness activities in schools. Counternarcotics material is
available in all schools and MOET sponsors various workshops and
campaigns at all school levels. The UNODC assesses GVN drug
awareness efforts favorably in preventing abuse, but considers
these efforts to have minimal impact on the existing addict and
HIV/AIDS population.

17. Stigma and discrimination against injecting drug users (IDU)
in Vietnam - exacerbated by historical campaigns characterizing
drug use as a "social evil" - have made it difficult to obtain
accurate IDU population size estimates and to expand access to
needed services. The Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs
(MOLISA) reports 180,000 officially "registered" IDU nationally,
while SODC reports 150,000 officially registered drug users as of
the end of June 2009. The actual size of this population is
estimated by U.S. and international organizations to be many times
higher. In addition, using even the most conservative estimates of
population size, coverage of basic prevention services remains low,
though it has consistently improved overtime. According to a recent
report from MOLISA, an estimated 35,000 injecting drug users are
being detained in 100 government-run rehabilitation centers, with
HIV infection rates estimated at over 60 percent in some

18. Vietnam strives to integrate addiction treatment and
vocational training to facilitate the rehabilitation of drug
addicts. MOLISA reports that approximately 54,000 drug users
received treatment, more than 10,000 received vocational training,
and approximately 6,000 received basic education. SODC reports
that 36 provinces and cities have organized detoxification and
rehabilitation for more than 40,000 drug addicts and provided
vocational training for more than 4,000 drug addicts and
facilitated 150 jobs. These efforts include tax and other economic
incentives for businesses that hire recovered addicts. Despite
these efforts, only a small percentage of recovered addicts find
regular employment.

19. HIV/AIDS is a serious and growing problem in Vietnam and
distinctive because the behaviors of injecting drug users drive
transmission. Ministry of Health reports 243,000 HIV cases in the

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country, a figure considered accurate by both the UNAIDS and the
USG. More than 40 percent of known HIV cases are injecting drug
users, with many additional infections resulting from transmission
to the sexual partners and children of these individuals. The
Vietnamese National Strategy for HIV Prevention and Control
presents a comprehensive response to HIV, including condom
promotion, clean needle and syringe programs, voluntary counseling
and testing and HIV/AIDS treatment and care.

20. Vietnam was designated the 15th focus country under the
President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2004. The
USG FY09 funding, $88.5 million, is distributed through PEPFAR
agencies such as USAID, HHS/CDC, and the U.S. Department of
Defense. The majority of USG support targets seven provinces
(Hanoi, Hai Phong, Quang Ninh, Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho, An Giang
and Nghe An), where the epidemic is most severe; however, PEPFAR
also supports HIV counseling and testing and community outreach for
drug users and sex workers in 30 additional provinces. U.S.-led
innovations, such as the provision of medication-assisted therapy
(including treatment with methadone) are highly regarded by the
government and the international community. The USG currently
supports the Vietnam government's pilot medication-assisted therapy
program at six sites in two provinces. The program will then expand
coverage to additional provinces with the highest prevalence of

21. The Methadone Maintenance Therapy (MMT) program for IDU is
currently operational in three sites in HCMC and three sites in Hai
Phong, with plans to expand the program to Hanoi by the end of the
calendar year 2009. The concentration of HIV infection in IDU
populations in Vietnam has spurred the PEPFAR program to focus HIV
prevention, care, and treatment efforts in these key urban settings
and along drug transport corridors to prevent the continued spread
of HIV.

U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs


22. Policy Initiatives. United States policy objectives in
counternarcotics cooperation in Vietnam are aimed at improving
bilateral cooperation in counternarcotics enforcement and assisting
Vietnam to expand the capacity of its counternarcotics law
enforcement agencies. The DEA Hanoi Country Office pursues direct
cooperation with the Counternarcotics Department of MPS on
counternarcotics cases and engages in some capacity-building
efforts through funding GVN participation at international events
and conferences, as well as conducting some basic training
activities. Between April and June, DEA sponsored training for 50
officers from the MPS, Vietnam Marine Police, and MPS Riverine
Police Units in the Hai Phong Port area and in the Southern Mekong
Delta area of Tien Giang Province. The training, which was funded
and carried out by the Joint Interagency Task Force West (JIATF-W),
covered tactical training, emergency medical training, and small
craft maintenance and technical training. DEA also carried out a
seminar in Ho Chi Minh City in September, training approximately 30
Vietnamese Police officers on drug smuggling techniques and
interdiction skills. Additionally, DEA and JIATF-W are working with
MPS on an infrastructure support project involving the construction
of a joint training facility in Vinh, Vietnam. The International
Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok, in cooperation with the Thai
Government, provides law enforcement training to Vietnamese
officers each year on a range of counternarcotics related courses,
training approximately 6 Vietnamese students per course, with a
total of approximately 100 Vietnamese officers trained per year.
The USG also provided port security and vulnerability assessment
and container inspection training to Vietnam.

23. The Road Ahead. The GVN is aware of the threat of drugs and
Vietnam's increasing domestic drug problem. However, there is a
guarded approach to foreign law enforcement assistance including in
the counternarcotics arena. During 2009, as in previous years, the
GVN made progress with on-going and new initiatives aimed at the
law enforcement and social problems that stem from the illegal drug

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trade. The GVN continued to show a willingness to take unilateral
action against drugs and drug trafficking, and requested assistance
from foreign law enforcement organizations, albeit on a
case-by-case basis. Vietnam still faces many internal problems that
make fighting drugs a challenge, including a lack of resources,
corruption, and a need for increased capacity amongst its law
enforcement entities. While USG-GVN operational cooperation is on
the rise, such cooperation will remain limited until Vietnam
develops of a legal framework to allow involvement of foreign law
enforcement officers in law enforcement investigations on
Vietnamese soil, or the signing of a bilateral agreement between
the United States and Vietnam to create a mechanism for joint
investigations and development of drug cases. The November 2006
Memorandum of Understanding between DEA and the MPS is a first step
in this direction, but this non-binding understanding directly
addresses law enforcement cooperation on a case-by-case basis and
only at the central government level.

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