Cablegate: Embassy Hanoi

Published: Fri 3 Nov 2006 09:57 AM
DE RUEHHI #2800/01 3070957
P 030957Z NOV 06
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: STATE 155088
HANOI 00002800 001.2 OF 005
1. The following is Embassy Hanoi's submission for the narcotics
section of the 2006-2007 INCSR.
2. Begin INCSR text:
I. Summary
The Government of Vietnam (GVN) continued to make progress in its
counternarcotics efforts during 2006. Specific actions included:
sustained efforts of counternarcotics law enforcement authorities to
pursue drug traffickers; increased attention to interagency
coordination; continued cooperation with the United Nations Office
on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); increased attention to both drug
treatment and harm reduction; continued public awareness activities;
and, additional bilateral cooperation on HIV/AIDS. The United States
and Vietnam continued to implement training and assistance projects
under the counternarcotics Letter of Agreement (LOA), and signed an
amendment to the LOA in April to provide additional training
assistance to the GVN. Operational cooperation with DEA's Hanoi
Country Office (HCO) continued to lag behind expectations. DEA and
the GVN's Ministry of Public Security (MPS) continue to negotiate a
memorandum of understanding intended to facilitate operational
cooperation between the two agencies on counternarcotics matters.
Vietnam is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention. In 2005, Vietnam
was removed from the list of major drug-producing countries because
actual drug cultivation clearly fell below the 1,000-hectare
threshold for Majors.
II. Status of Country
This year, the GVN claims about 170 hectares of opium under
cultivation nationwide and official UNODC statistical tables no
longer list Vietnam separately in drug production analyses.
Cultivation in Vietnam probably accounts for about one percent of
the total cultivation in Southeast Asia, according to a law
enforcement estimate; DEA has no evidence of any Vietnamese-produced
narcotics reaching the United States. There appear to be small
amounts of cannabis grown in remote regions of southern Vietnam.
Vietnam has not been considered a confirmed source or transit
country for precursors. However, one precursor of concern to DEA
that has historically been produced in large quantities in Vietnam
is sassafras oil. This precursor to MDMA production continues to be
imported into Vietnam for re-export to third countries. The
potential for diversion of sassafras oil into clandestine MDMA
production remains an area of concern for DEA. In an effort to
support Vietnam's efforts to enhance its precursor control capacity,
the GVN and UNODC are cooperating on a project titled "Interdiction
and Seizure Capacity Building with Special Emphasis on ATS and
Precursors." Implementation of that project continued successfully
into 2006 with the deployment of counternarcotics interagency task
forces in six "hotspot" provinces.
In 2006, the GVN continued to view the Golden Triangle as the source
for most of the heroin supplied to Vietnam. The GVN also perceives
close connections between Vietnamese and foreign traffickers. GVN
authorities are particularly concerned about rising ATS use among
urban youth. During the reporting period, the GVN increased the
tempo of enforcement and awareness programs that they hope will
avoid a youth synthetic drug epidemic. Despite some high-profile
successes in 2006, lack of training, resources, special-purpose
counternarcotics staff and experience, both among law enforcement
and judicial officials, continues to plague Vietnamese
counternarcotics efforts. Resource constraints are pervasive, and
GVN counternarcotics officials note that Vietnam, a developing
country, will face resource constraints for the foreseeable future.
Drug laws remain very tough in Vietnam. For possession or
trafficking of 600 grams or more of heroin, or 20 kilograms of opium
gum or cannabis resin, the death penalty is mandatory. Foreign law
enforcement sources do not believe that major trafficking groups
have moved into Vietnam. Relatively small groups comprised of
between 5 to 15 individuals (who are often related to each other)
usually do most narcotics trafficking.
With the exception of the recently amended counternarcotics LOA, the
USG has no extradition, mutual legal assistance or precursor
chemical agreements with Vietnam. The original LOA included three
specific counternarcotics training projects. The amendment to the
LOA, signed in April, provided funding for additional training
III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2006
Policy Initiatives. The structure of the GVN's counternarcotics
efforts is built around the National Committee on AIDS, Drugs and
Prostitution Control (NCADP), which includes 18 GVN ministries and
people's organizations as members. In addition, MPS, as NCADP's
HANOI 00002800 002.2 OF 005
standing member, has a specialized unit to combat and suppress drug
crimes. The GVN continued to intensify its attention to the drug
issue in 2006, including increased attention from the
State-controlled media and additional GVN-funded training courses.
Many provinces and cities implemented their own drug awareness and
prevention programs, as well as demand reduction and drug treatment.
The GVN continues to view drug awareness and prevention as vital
tools and significant objectives in its fight against drugs, as well
as integral parts of its effort to comply fully with the 1988 UN
Drug Convention. The GVN has continued to rely heavily on
counternarcotics propaganda, culminating in the annual drug
awareness month in June 2006, as well as other intensified law
enforcement campaigns throughout the year. Officially sponsored
activities cover every aspect of society, from schools to unions to
civic organizations and government offices. In 2006, the GVN
extended its ongoing effort to de-stigmatize drug addicts in order
to increase their odds of successful treatment, and to help control
the spread of HIV/AIDS. Since the national law on drug suppression
took effect in 2001, the GVN has issued 12 decrees, seven decisions
and six circulars to regulate implementation of the law. According
to the GVN Standing Office on Drug Control (SODC), these measures do
not address the use of investigative techniques, such as controlled
deliveries, informants or undercover officers by law enforcement
authorities. However, in practice, these techniques have been used
by GVN officials.
According to MOLISA (Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs), the drug
addiction recidivism rate after treatment is still high, between 70
and 80 percent. By the end of June, there were 159,305 officially
registered drug users nationwide, with 84 provincial-level treatment
centers providing treatment to between 55,000 and 60,000 drug
addicts annually. The number of "unofficial" (i.e., not acknowledged
officially) drug users is at least 1.5 times higher. Heroin accounts
for 83 percent of drug use, followed by opium (13.9 percent),
cannabis (one percent), ATS (1.5 percent) and other types of drugs
(0.6 percent). MOLISA reports 80 percent of drug addicts are
intravenous users.
In March 2005, then-Prime Minister Phan Van Khai approved the
national drug control master plan through 2010. Under the master
plan, there are six areas of priority technical assistance,
including law enforcement, treatment, demand reduction, supply
reduction, legislation and capacity enhancement, as well as building
the legal framework on money laundering and precursor control. The
GVN continues to look for assistance from foreign donors in these
areas. As in past years, observers agreed that overall lack of
resources and staff continued to be a major constraint in
counternarcotics activities. According to the MPS Counternarcotics
Department, less than half of the country's district and
commune-level counternarcotics offices are fully staffed.
Foreign law enforcement representatives in Vietnam acknowledge that
real operational cooperation on counternarcotics cases is minimal
due to legal prohibitions and policy restrictions that preclude
Vietnam's drug enforcement authorities from sharing information and
supporting bilateral investigations with foreign police agencies.
Without changes in Vietnamese law to allow the establishment of a
legal and procedural basis for Vietnam's cooperation with foreign
law enforcement agencies, operational "cooperation" will remain
limited and largely determined on a case-by-case basis. USG law
enforcement agencies hold out some hope that the development of
agency-to-agency agreements will slightly improve the cooperation
climate. During 2006, cooperation between GVN law enforcement
authorities and DEA's HCO continued to improve marginally, although
DEA agents have not been officially permitted to work with GVN
counternarcotics investigators. Cooperation was limited to receiving
information and investigative requests from DEA, holding occasional
meetings and providing limited responses to DEA's requests. Thus
far, counternarcotics police have declined to share detailed
information with DEA or cooperate operationally. During the
reporting period, DEA did receive cooperation on one undercover
money laundering operation in which MPS provided an undercover
officer to pick up alleged drug money that was remitted to Vietnam
through a money laundering organization in the United States.
However, despite requests made by DEA, MPS provided no investigation
information on the organizations or businesses that facilitated the
illegal money remittance in Vietnam.
Law Enforcement Efforts. According to GVN statistics, during the
first six months of 2006, there were 5,362 drug cases involving
8,259 traffickers. Total seizures include 104.2 kilograms of heroin,
47.55 kilograms of opium, 549.2 kilograms of cannabis, 35,068 ATS
tablets and 1,185 ampoules of addictive pharmaceuticals, and 5,188
kilograms of precursor chemicals. The number of cases and
traffickers represents increases of 3.7 and 6.5 percent,
respectively, compared with the same period of 2005. During the
reporting period, law enforcement authorities nationwide raided and
closed-down 507 locations related to illegal drug transactions.
During the first six months of 2006, courts throughout the country
tried 6,205 traffickers in 4,595 cases, and handed down 46 death
HANOI 00002800 003.2 OF 005
sentences, 73 life sentences and numerous other lengthy sentences.
During the five years since the Anti-Drug Law took effect in June
2001, the country's law enforcement forces have investigated 64,660
cases involving 102,660 traffickers, representing 34 and 18 percent
increases, respectively, compared with the preceding five-year
period. Also during this five-year period, law enforcement officials
seized 1,005.23 kilograms of heroin, 1,584.45 kilograms of opium,
6,411.35 kilograms of cannabis, and 737,731 ATS tablets, and raided
3,000 locations related to narcotics trafficking.
Corruption. During 2006, the GVN demonstrated an increased
determination to combat corruption. In Prime Minister Nguyen Tan
Dzung's inaugural address, he said that Vietnam is "determined in
our fight against corruption, waste, and bureaucracy - the very top
priority in the Government's agenda in the months and years ahead."
In early October, the GVN debuted its Anti-Corruption Committee
headed by the Prime Minister. At the Committee's inaugural meeting,
the Prime Minster said its anti-corruption mission is backed by "the
entire political system" and gave instructions to resolve
high-profile corruption cases such as those involving Project
Management Unit 18 (PMU-18), the Vietnam Oil and Gas Corporation and
the Coal and Minerals Corporation. In connection with the PMU-18
case, General Cao Ngoc Oanh, Deputy Director, MPS General Department
of Police and a primary point of contact for DEA and other foreign
law enforcement agencies in Vietnam, was implicated in the ongoing
corruption scandal involving the embezzlement of millions of dollars
by high-ranking officials within Vietnam's Ministry of
Transportation. While General Oanh has yet to be charged with
criminal wrongdoing as the result of his involvement in the
corruption scandal, in May 2006 his sponsorship for membership in
the Communist Central Party Committee was cancelled, and his
possible promotion to Vice Minister of Public Security has been
derailed. The Prime Minister stressed the role of the press in
building a strong country and healthy society, and asked the
committee to work closely with the press to combat corruption.
According to a government report, authorities have uncovered 1,728
corruption cases during the first nine months of 2006. As a matter
of GVN policy, Vietnam does not encourage or facilitate illicit
production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or
other controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from
illegal drug transactions. No information specifically links any
senior GVN official with engaging in, encouraging or facilitating
the illicit production or distribution of drugs or substances, or
the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions.
Nonetheless, a certain level of corruption, both among lower-level
enforcement personnel and higher-level officials, is consonant with
fairly large-scale movement of narcotics into and out of Vietnam.
The GVN did demonstrate a willingness in 2006 to prosecute
officials, although the targets were relatively low-level. In late
2005, six Hanoi policemen were arrested for their alleged role in
protecting a drug trafficking ring. The director of the police
department issued a decision to expel the officers from the force.
In February 2006, the chief police investigator in Hanoi's Hai Ba
Trung District was arrested for allegedly taking a bribe in exchange
for the release of a drug trafficker. The outcome of that case is
pending. Vietnam has signed, but not yet ratified, the UN Convention
against Corruption.
Agreements/Treaties. Vietnam is a party to the 1988 UN Drug
Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention as amended by the 1972
Protocol and the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances.
Vietnam has signed, but has not yet ratified, the UN Convention
Against Corruption.
Cultivation/Production. Despite eradication efforts, the GVN
reported small amounts of opium regrown during 2005-2006 growing
season in hard-to-reach upland and mountainous regions of some
northern, northwestern and central provinces, especially Son La
(26.9 ha), Dien Bien (7,905 m2), Yen Bai (137.2 ha), Lao Cai (0.2
ha) and Nghe An (5.4 ha). There were also minimal, scattered amounts
regrown in the southern provinces of Binh Thuan, Binh Phuoc, Dak
Lak, Khanh Hoa, Tay Ninh and Kien Giang. Poppy recultivation in 2006
showed a significant increase over the previous year, 170.8 hectares
versus 19 hectares, most likely due to more accurate reporting in
2006. The total number of hectares under opium poppy cultivation
remains sharply reduced from an estimated 12,900 hectares in 1993,
when the GVN began opium poppy eradication. UNODC and law
enforcement sources do not view production as a significant problem
in Vietnam. There have been recent confirmed reports that ATS and
heroin have been produced in Vietnam. GVN law enforcement forces
have seized some ATS-related equipment (i.e., pill presses). As part
of its efforts to comply fully with the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the
GVN continued in 2006 to eradicate poppies when found and to
implement crop substitution. GVN officials have admitted that
complete eradication is probably unrealistic given the remoteness of
mountainous areas in the northwest and extreme poverty among ethnic
minority populations who sometimes still use opium for medicinal
purposes. The GVN's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
(MARD) continues to support crop substitution projects in various
HANOI 00002800 004.2 OF 005
Drug Flow/Transit. While law enforcement sources and the UNODC
believe that significant amounts of drugs are transiting Vietnam,
DEA has not yet identified a case of heroin entering the United
States directly from Vietnam. More commonly, drugs, especially
heroin and opium, enter Vietnam from the Golden Triangle via Laos
and Cambodia by land, sea and air, making their way to Hanoi or Ho
Chi Minh City, either for local consumption or transshipment to
other countries such as Australia, Japan, China, Taiwan and
Malaysia. The ATS flow into the country during 2006 continued to be
serious and not limited to border areas. ATS can now be found
throughout the country, especially in places frequented by young
people. ATS such as amphetamine, diazepam, ecstasy, ketamine and
especially "ice" methamphetamine continue to worry the government.
Such drugs are most popular in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other
major cities. During 2006, numerous cases involving ATS trafficking
and consumption were reported in the media.
Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction. The GVN continues to view
increased public awareness as an important preventive measure and
strategic key to reduce the number of addicts. According to the
GVN's 2006 - 2010 Master Plan for Drug Control, the Ministry of
Culture and Information (MOCI) remains responsible for public drug
control information and education among the general population.
During 2006, MOCI continued to coordinate with other ministries and
organizations to conduct awareness campaigns on HIV/AIDS and drugs.
June was declared the "anti-drug month," during which hundreds of
large-scale awareness meetings were held in localities throughout
the country. In Hanoi, MPS, MOCI and MOET co-hosted awareness
meetings and exchanges with the participation of government leaders
and more than 3,000 city students. In addition, the ministries
distributed hundreds of thousands of anti-drug leaflets and videos,
and organized anti-drug painting contests for children. The Ministry
of Education and Training (MOET) carries out awareness activities in
schools. Counternarcotics material is available in all schools and
MOET sponsors various workshops and campaigns at all school levels.
The border forces continued to play an "active role" in raising
awareness of the risks of drug use and disseminating
counternarcotics information to border villages and communes. The
UNODC assesses GVN drug awareness efforts favorably, but considers
these efforts to have had minimal impact on the existing addict and
HIV/AIDS population.
Vietnam has a network of drug treatment centers. There are now 84
centers at the provincial level, including a new one designed for
post-treatment vocational training and employment in Hanoi. Vietnam
has also strived to integrate addiction treatment and vocational
training to facilitate the rehabilitation of drug addicts. Ho Chi
Minh City is the pioneer in this campaign, followed by Tay Ninh
Province. In 2006, the GVN approved the addition of five other
provinces under this campaign including Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Quang Ninh,
Long An, Binh Duong and Hanoi. These efforts include tax and other
economic incentives for businesses that hire recovered addicts.
Despite these efforts, only a small percentage of recovered addicts
find regular employment. Under instructions for the Ho Chi Minh City
municipal authorities, businesses in the Nhi Xuan industrial zone
are expected to employ between 5,000 and 10,000 recovered addicts
out of a total 17,000 workers.
HIV/AIDS is a serious and growing problem in Vietnam. The epidemic
is closely related to intravenous drug use and commercial sex work.
Injection drug users (IDUs), commercial sex workers (CSWs), CSWs who
are also IDUs, men who have sex with men and sex partners of IDU and
CSWs are the most-at-risk populations in Vietnam. At least 60
percent of known HIV cases are IDUs. The result from a 2004 national
sentinel surveillance indicated a 29 percent HIV prevalence among
IDUs. However, in some provinces, the HIV prevalence is reported at
higher than 70 percent among IDUs. The Vietnamese National Strategy
for HIV Prevention and Control, launched in March 2004, presents a
comprehensive response to the HIV situation. Based on a
"Information-Education-Communication" approach, major components of
the strategy include risk reduction, condom promotion, clean needle
and syringe programs, voluntary counseling and testing and HIV/AIDS
treatment and care. In September 2006, MPS and the Ministry of
Health adopted a counternarcotics and HIV/AIDS prevention
coordination plan to help reduce the country's HIV/AIDS contraction
rate through drug injection. As of September, the GVN reported a
total of 112,880 HIV cases in the country. Out of that number,
19,261 are AIDS patients. The actual figure is believed to be three
times higher.
In June 2004, Vietnam was designated the 15th focus country under
the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). USG FY06
funding, about 34 million dollars, is distributed through key PEPFAR
agencies such as USAID, HHS/CDC, and the US Department of Defense.
Through PEPFAR, the USG supports the Vietnam National HIV/AIDS
Strategy of Prevention, Care and Treatment for People Living with
HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). The majority of USG support targets six current
focus provinces (Hanoi, Hai Phong, Quang Ninh, Ho Chi Minh City, Can
Tho and An Giang) where the epidemic is most severe; however, PEPFAR
HANOI 00002800 005.2 OF 005
also supports HIV counseling and testing and community outreach for
drug users and sex workers in nearly 40 provinces. At present, more
than 3,000 people receive lifesaving anti-retroviral drugs provided
by the USG and the PEPFAR team plans to provide ARV treatment for
22,000 people by the end of the 2008 fiscal year. Because the
majority of HIV infections in Vietnam are attributed to drug
injection, the PEPFAR team works closely with the Ministry of
Health, Ho Chi Minh City Provincial AIDS Committee (PAC) and others
to develop effective substance abuse treatment and HIV prevention
programs targeting drug users. In 2005 and 2006, USG-supported
programs have trained nearly 30 substance abuse counselors who work
in Hai Phong and HCMC. In cooperation with the HCMC PAC, the PEPFAR
team is piloting a comprehensive program to assist former
rehabilitation center residents prevent relapse, stabilize their
lives and access appropriate care for HIV disease. As this program
shows success, it will be expanded to assist drug users in provinces
beyond HCMC.
IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
In 2003, Vietnam and the United States completed and signed a
bilateral counternarcotics agreement (LOA), which came into force in
2004. It represents the first direct bilateral counternarcotics
program assistance to Vietnam. In April, an amendment to the LOA was
signed to provide USD 500,000 in additional training assistance to
Vietnam. In June, USG trainers presented counternarcotics training
in Hanoi under the LOA. In September, a GVN drug law enforcement
delegation was sent to the U.S. for training under the amended LOA.
This will be followed by additional training in Ho Chi Minh City in
December. During 2006, the USG continued to fund training for some
GVN law enforcement officers and other officials involved in the
legal arena for courses at the International Law Enforcement Academy
(ILEA) in Bangkok. Between January and October 2006, using State
Department law enforcement assistance, 51 Vietnamese law enforcement
officers attended the Academy for various types of training. DEA
sponsored mid- and high-level law enforcement officials from MPS to
attend three Regional International Drug Enforcement Conferences
and, using State Department law enforcement assistance, the main
International Drug Enforcement Conference. Additionally, DEA's
International Training Unit conducted in-country seminars titled
"Tactical Safety & Survival" and "Advanced Drug Enforcement." The
USG also contributed to counternarcotics efforts through the UNODC.
An ongoing example of the USG's contribution through UNODC is the
G55 project titled "Interdiction and Seizure Capacity Building with
Special Emphasis on ATS and Precursors," which established six
Vietnamese interagency task forces at key border "hotspots" around
the country. Effective operational cooperation between DEA and MPS
continued to be lacking. In early 2006, DEA submitted to MPS a draft
MOU, which is awaiting the GVN's response, to allow more-in-depth
The Road Ahead. The GVN is acutely aware of the threat of drugs and
Vietnam's increasing domestic drug problem. However, there is
continued suspicion of foreign law enforcement assistance and/or
intervention, especially from the United States, in the
counternarcotics arena. During 2006, as in previous years, the GVN
made progress with ongoing and new initiatives aimed at the law
enforcement and social problems that stem from the illegal drug
trade. Notwithstanding a lack of meaningful operational cooperation
with DEA,the GVN continued to show a willingness to take unlateral
action against drugs and drug traffickin. Vietnam still faces many
internal problems thatmake fighting drugs a challenge. With the
amendmnt to the counternarcotics LOA, the USG can look frward to
continued cooperation in the area of asistance to Vietnamese law
enforcement agencies. perational cooperation, however, remains on
hold ending the development of a legal framework in Vienam to
allow foreign law enforcement officers tocarry out operations on
Vietnamese soil, or the igning of a bilateral agreement between the
Unitd States and Vietnam that would create a mechanism or the
joint investigation and development of drg cases.
End text.
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media