CHAU DOC — Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta flood season sees a peak in the smuggling in of goods from Cambodia, with thousands of boats plying day and night to sneak in all kinds of goods.
Goods being checked at the northern province of Lang Son's Market Watch team. The smuggling of goods is now rampant throughout the Mekong Delta these days. — VNS Photo Truong Vi
The most popular are mobile phones, tablet computers, electronic goods, tobacco, wine and clothes.
A large volume of goods had recently flooded into the country from Ta Mau market in Cambodia's border province of Ta Keo, Sai Gon Giai Phong newspaper reported.
Most houses along a 5km road in Chau Doc District in An Giang Province to the border Vinh Nguon Commune have a board saying "giu xe, dua do" (Parking/ferry available).
What they offer is transport to Ta Mau market and back during the flood season when the area is under water. A round trip only costs VND15,000 ($0.75) per person.
Thousands of people, most of them smugglers, use the service every day, storing the goods they bring at warehouses in Chau Doc before transporting them to other provinces.
To throw dust in authorities' eyes, major smugglers transport their goods at night.
The owner of a mobile-phone shop in Ta Mau market said she bought her goods, mostly made in Thailand and China, from the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.
A fake Thai-made iPhone 4 costing a mere VND3 million (US$140) – compared to around VND14 million($670) in Viet Nam – looks exactly like the original.
An iPhone 3 costs VND1.1 million ($55), a Nokia N8 costs VND1.3 million ($57), a Vertu costs VND1.5 million ($75), and an iPad costs VND2.3 million ($115).
Nghia, who has a mobile-phone shop in Kien Giang Province, said: "These iPhones both look good and are cheap. We sell them at double or triple the price."
He pays boat-owners VND15,000 ($0.75) to smuggle in a phone.
Besides smugglers, people looking to buy electronic goods also visit this market.
Nhat of Long Xuyen, the capital of An Giang Province, wanted to buy a high-fidelity sound system for his coffee shop.
He said: "The quality of high-fidelity sound systems sold here is good compared to other goods. Lots of people buy them."
However, old products refurbished in Chau Doc are also taken to the market to be sold. Thus a "brand new" Sony TV costs a mere VND1 million.
An official at the An Giang Department of Customs said most of the smugglers' boats and junks had high-power motors that could match official vessels for speed.
When pursued, the smugglers sometimes even cast net traps for customs boats, he added.
The General Administration of Customs said the smuggling in of goods from neighbouring countries had intensified in the third quarter.
The main areas were Mong Cai-Quang Ninh, Tan Thanh-Lang Son, Ta Lung-Cao Bang, and Lao Cai on the border with China, it said.
Contradictory primary contraband items were tobacco, soft drinks, cosmetics, garments, food, livestock, and poultry, he added. — VNS