Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has ordered authorities on the northern border to investigate the rampant smuggling there that Thanh Nien had reported about last week.
The government has issued clear orders to combat smuggling, Phuc, the chairman of the national steering committee for fighting smuggling, forgery and commercial fraud, said.
“If what you said is true, the situation is very worrying,” he admitted in an interview with Thanh Nien.
He said the local steering committee on smuggling has been told to set up a special team to identify the responsibility of people involved.
A Thanh Nien investigation found rice being smuggled from different spots in Lao Cai to China across the Red River.
Smugglers had to pay money to some locals who operate piers in Lao Cai and had leveled the surrounding places to facilitate land transport.
But Nguyen Thanh Duong, deputy chairman of Lao Cai and head of the province committee, told Thanh Nien earlier on the phone that “there is no smuggling.”
It was just border residents exchanging some agricultural produce, he claimed.
He said there are border guards stationed in the area, but a Thanh Nien video shows none and its correspondents confirmed their absence.
Nguyen Sy Cuong, a member of the National Assembly's Legal Committee accused Duong of being “irresponsible.”
The smuggling reported by the newspaper was not done on a small scale but involved rows of vehicles and boats going over the border every day with contraband.
He said there is suspicion among locals that the smuggling is abetted by corruption since it is common knowledge that here is “terrible” smuggling going on.
“It is no longer done clandestinely but is open in many places.”
Cuong blamed authorities for leaving the borders open.
“It is not right for [them] to open their border gates like a normal road since it would be impossible to control [the traffic].”
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