Viet Nam News
QUẢNG TRỊ — More than three thousand attempted smugglings worth millions of dollars in goods and counterfeit items were stopped by anti-smuggling forces in Quảng Trị Province in 2017, one of the central region’s hotspots for smuggling along the border with Laos.
With Tết just around the corner, smuggling operations have increased in both number and value, stretching the province’s law enforcement forces thin. Encounters between law enforcement and smugglers even resulted in high-ranking officers being injured in the line of duty.
At the root of rampant smuggling across the province was the authority’s inability to identify and strike at major hubs of smugglers’ operations as well as poor teamwork and coordination among different law enforcement branches, said deputy chairman of the provincial People’s Committte Nguyễn Quân Chính during a meeting with the province’s heads of anti-smuggling forces, Lao Động (Labour) newspaper reported.
Chính urged law enforcement forces to intensify patrols and surveillance of the province’s river network and numerous routes that run along the border with Laos. He also demanded the officers draft a plan to stomp out smugglers’ logistics hubs and depots.
Among the smuggler’s usual favourites such as cigarettes, electronics, alcohol and toys, the celebration of Tết has created huge demand for firecrackers, which are currently banned in the country. Smugglers have been determined to bring in the lucrative holiday contrabands by any means necessary, from stuffing it inside other goods, hiding it within trucks to hiring human mules to cross over using less-known border trails.
In January alone, border patrols have stopped some 30 smuggling cases with nearly half a ton of firecrackers confiscated.
Head of the Lao Bảo Border Gate Colonel Tạ Quang Hậu said the province’s border patrol has set up five additional check points and assigned 15 officers as reinforcement to support anti-smuggling efforts along the border.
“There has been a surge in the quantity of firecrackers being smuggled in the country since the beginning of 2018,” Hậu noted.
Captain of Quảng Trị provincial customs Lê Chí Dung said the removal of the Lao Bảo Special Economic-Commercial Zone check point B, which used to serve as a mandatory inspection point for goods entering the country from Laos, has hurt the province’s anti-smuggling efforts. Without the check point, law enforcement forces have to rely on their intelligence sources to detect smuggled goods.
Tensions between officers and smugglers have run high. Dung’s deputy Bùi Văn Lai was ambushed and assaulted by smugglers while he was inspecting their operations along Route 9 just minutes away from the Lao Bảo Border Gate. Lai suffered a broken nose and numerous bruises and had to be hospitalised at a time when the force was desperately in need of his services.
Dung said smugglers have gotten bolder over the years. There has been an increase in the number of run-throughs at custom check points. A number of provincial custom officers also reported that they received threats in text messages and in some cases, direct threats from smugglers. — VNS