Laos to Step Up Patrols on Vietnam Border Amid Drug Trafficking Spike

2017-03-22
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The gate separating Dansavan in Laos' Savannakhet province from Lao Bao in Vietnam's Quang Tri province, seen from the Lao side, in an undated photo.
The gate separating Dansavan in Laos' Savannakhet province from Lao Bao in Vietnam's Quang Tri province, seen from the Lao side, in an undated photo.
RFA

Authorities in Laos are increasing cooperation with their counterparts in neighboring Vietnam and deploying additional security forces along the boundary shared between the two countries amid an uptick in cross-border crime, according to Lao government sources.

An official from the Anti-Narcotics Unit of Xam Tai district, in northeastern Laos’ Houaphanh province along the border with Vietnam, said late on Tuesday that the two countries are collaborating to battle drug trafficking—a major factor driving the increase in transnational crime.

“We are coordinating with our Vietnamese counterparts along the border,” said the official, who spoke to RFA’s Lao Service on condition of anonymity.

“Police in each town and district are also cooperating and exchanging information about [drug] trafficking.”

The official said the number of methamphetamine and heroin seizures along the border had jumped significantly in the past three years, without providing specific details.

A security officer in Xiengkhouang province, which also borders Vietnam in northeastern Laos, told RFA Tuesday that he had seen a spike in drugs being trafficked from Laos into Vietnam through his Nonghet district.

“The Nonghet border gate is one of the main transit points for drug smuggling into Vietnam,” said the officer, who also asked not to be named.

On Wednesday, Vietnam sentenced nine drug traffickers to death for smuggling half a ton of heroin into the country from Laos, according to a report by the official newspaper of the government of northern Vietnam’s Hoa Binh province. Nine others were jailed for life, the report said.

The drug ring had smuggled the drugs for resale in China, earning some U.S. $607,000 between 2012 and 2016, the official Vietnam News Agency said in a separate report.

News of the bust follows the signing of an agreement to extend cooperation in security matters between Lao Minister of Public Security Somkeo Silavong and his Vietnamese counterpart To Lam during the former’s March 15-17 visit to Hanoi.

The two ministries agreed to continue mutual support in protecting national, social and political security and in preventing cross-border crimes such as drug trafficking, as well as ensuring security along the two countries' shared border, according to a report by the Vientiane Times.

Porous border

Earlier this week, an official from the Lao Ministry of Public Security told RFA that citizens of both Laos and Vietnam regularly cross the porous border illegally to engage in drug running, but also other crimes, such as the trafficking of endangered wildlife.

“People from that side cross to this and vice versa almost everywhere [along the border],” said the official, who spoke anonymously.

“We have been monitoring and solving problems to ensure safety, security and order along the border.”

As part of a bid to reinforce security between the two countries, more guards will be deployed to patrol the boundary in all Lao provinces bordering Vietnam, the official said, from Phongsali in the north to Attapeu in the south.

The official did not specify how large the deployment will be or when it will take place.

Many citizens of Vietnam illegally cross the border seeking job opportunities in Laos, where the population is less than one-tenth as large and natural resources are abundant.

Last week, Laos’ Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare registered more than 24,000 foreign workers living illegally in the country—80 percent of which were Vietnamese.

This year Laos and Vietnam marked their 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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