Border police in the northern province of Son La seized more than 53 kilograms of heroin and a cache of weapons in the biggest drug bust in province history.
A team of officers from the province's drug and traffic divisions took in Bui Tuan Linh, a 24-year-old Son La local, Ngo Minh Loan, 29, from nearby Cao Bang Province, Nguyen Van Thuong and Dao Xuan Lam, both 28 and from Thai Nguyen Province, for drug and weapons trafficking.
The police seized 53.13 kilograms of heroin, a grenade, a gun, around US$3,000 (in dollar and dong notes), four cars and eight cell phones.
All firearms in Vietnam belong to the military, the private ownership of guns is considered a crime.
Vietnam’s Penal Code demands that those convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine face the death penalty, making the country one of the toughest in the world in terms of punishing drug crimes.
The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is also punishable by death.
But that hasn’t deterred drug trafficking across the Laos--Vietnam border, where scores of dealers and smugglers are arrested every year.
Police say the trade has grown increasingly violent of late.
On July 25 a team of Son La police officers engaged in a one-hour gun battle with traffickers that claimed the life of First Lieutenant Luong Phat Chiem, 32.
The police seized nearly 36 kilograms of heroin, five guns, and arrested five traffickers who were injured in the cross-fire.
Border guards in the north-central province of Nghe An in the same month shot out a truck's tires to stop four traffickers from bringing 1.65 kilos of heroin and marijuana over from Laos.
Late in June, two Lao suspects pulled knives on Nghe An border guards to protect their 3.7 kilograms of heroin, only to be overpowered.
Police in the north-central Quang Tri Province in the same month also came under fire from two smugglers as they fled a van containing 20,000 ecstasy tablets.