Vietnam hub to tighten airport drug detection

By Dinh Phu, Thanh Nien News

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A Ho Chi Minh City leader has asked relevant forces to step up anti-drug screenings at Tan Son Nhat airport and crack down on hotspots due to an explosion in drug-related arrests and seizures.

Le Thanh Hai, chief of the city's Party Unit, made the remark Saturday at a five-year review of the Politburo’s decree on enhanced drug prevention and control.

Phan Anh Minh, vice director of the HCMC police department, said the city arrested around 16,000 people for drug crimes in the past five years, up 20 percent from the previous five years.

The police seized 123 kilograms of heroin, a 2.5 fold increase, and 142 kilograms of synthetic drugs, a 22-fold increase, Minh said.

He said Tan Son Nhat International Airport has become a gateway for smuggling drugs into Vietnam and a transit point for carrying drugs on to third countries.

Minister of Public Security Tran Dai Quang told the meeting that drug crimes in the Southeast Asian region are getting more "complicated," partly due to the expansion of drug trafficking rings that smuggle drugs by air into Southeast Asia from Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

He asked HCMC police to enhance information sharing with other countries to combat transnational drug trafficking.

Duong Ngoc Hai, deputy head of the HCMC People’s Procuracy, the municipal prosecutors' office, told Thanh Nien that Vietnam typically only sentences low-level drug mules due to its poor connections with foreign police.

Vietnam arrested 138,600 people for drug crimes in the last five years. Around 3,358 kilograms of drugs of various kinds were confiscated.

Vietnam takes a hard line on drugs; anyone found guilty of attempting to smuggle more than 600 grams of heroin or cocaine faces the death penalty.

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