Cablegate: 2007-2008 Incsr Part I -- Vietnam

Published: Tue 6 Nov 2007 12:20 AM
DE RUEHHI #1892/01 3100020
P 060020Z NOV 07
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: STATE 136782
1. The following is Embassy Hanoi's submission for the narcotics
section of the 2007-2008 INCSR.
2. Begin INCSR text:
I. Summary
The Government of Vietnam (GVN) continued to make progress in its
counternarcotics efforts during 2007. 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). Operational
cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA)
Hanoi Country Office (HCO) continued to lag behind expectations. In
November 2006, DEA and the GVN's Ministry of Public Security (MPS)
concluded a memorandum of understanding intended to facilitate
operational cooperation between the two agencies on transnational
counternarcotics matters. 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. Vietnam
is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
II. Status of Country
This year, the GVN claims that there were only about 37.5 ha of
opium and 0.4 ha of cannabis under cultivation nationwide, all of
which were eradicated. Official UNODC statistical tables no longer
list Vietnam separately in drug production analyses. Cultivation in
Vietnam probably accounts for only about one percent of the total
cultivation in Southeast Asia, according to law enforcement
estimates. 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.
In the past, Vietnam has not been confirmed as a 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 is no longer
produced in Vietnam, but it 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 2007, the GVN continued to view the Golden Triangle as the source
for most of the heroin supplied to Vietnam.
GVN authorities are particularly concerned about rising ATS use
among urban youth. During 2007, the GVN increased the pace of
enforcement and awareness programs that they hope will avoid a youth
synthetic drug epidemic. Resource constraints in all aspects of
narcotics programs are pervasive, and GVN counternarcotics officials
note that, as a developing country, Vietnam will face such resource
constraints for the foreseeable future. Officials also noted,
however, significant annual budget increases for counternarcotics
efforts. Drug laws remain very tough in Vietnam. For possession or
trafficking of 600 grams (something more than one pound) or more of
heroin, or 20 kg (44 pounds) 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 from five to 15 individuals
(who are often related to each other) usually do most narcotics
III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2007
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
standing member, has a specialized unit to combat and suppress drug
crimes. During 2007, 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 2007. Officially sponsored
activities cover every aspect of society, from schools to unions to
civic organizations and government offices. In 2007, the GVN
extended its ongoing effort to de-stigmatize drug addicts in order
to increase their odds of successful treatment, and to help control
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the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Law Enforcement Efforts. According to GVN statistics, during the
first nine months of 2007, there were 7,185 drug cases involving
9,343 traffickers. Total seizures include 123 kg of heroin, 53 kg of
opium, 224 kg of cannabis, 24,300 ATS tablets, and 10,050 other
tablets and ampoules of addictive pharmaceuticals. The numbers of
cases and traffickers during the first six months of 2007 represent
decreases of 22.09 and 34.5 percent, respectively, compared with the
same period of 2005. Officials attributed the lower figures to
increased admissions of addicts in drug treatment centers, greater
effectiveness of counternarcotics forces on the borders and success
at raising public awareness. During the first nine months of 2007,
courts throughout the country tried 8,357 traffickers in 6,274
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 2007, cooperation levels between GVN law enforcement
authorities and DEA's HCO continued to gradually improve, although
DEA agents have not been officially permitted to work directly with
GVN counternarcotics investigators. Cooperation was limited to
receiving information and investigative requests from DEA, holding
meetings and providing somewhat limited responses to DEA's requests.
Thus far, counternarcotics police have declined to share detailed
investigative information with DEA or cooperate operationally.
During 2006 and 2007, DEA did receive operational cooperation on one
money laundering investigation in which MPS assisted in the receipt
of 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.
Corruption. 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 willingness in 2007 to
prosecute officials, although the targets were relatively low-level.
In September, two prosecutors of the Thai Nguyen Provincial Supreme
People's Procuracy were arrested for alleged bribe taking in a drug
case. Earlier, two Thai Nguyen drug police officers were also
arrested on the same charge in the case. 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 Corruption
Convention and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized
Cultivation/Production. Despite eradication efforts, the GVN
reported 37.5 ha of opium re-planted nationwide. The total poppy
cultivation in 2007 showed a significant decrease compared to the
previous year. The total number of hectares under opium poppy
cultivation remains sharply reduced from an estimated 12,900 ha in
1993, when the GVN began opium poppy eradication. There have been
recent confirmed reports that ATS and heroin have been produced in
Vietnam. Local ATS production relies on ATS powder brought from
outside the country, which is then processed into pills. GVN law
enforcement forces have seized some ATS-related equipment (i.e.,
pill presses). In January, Vietnam's first-ever prosecution for
heroin production, involving 44 kg produced in 2001 and 2003,
concluded with the court handing down eight death sentences and
thirteen life imprisonments. Officials described the method of
production used by the perpetrators as "simple and manual," and "not
at a level sufficient to produce saleable heroin." As part of its
efforts to comply fully with the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the GVN
continued in 2007 to eradicate poppies when found and to implement
crop substitution.
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
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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 2007 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 (crystal methamphetamine) continue
to worry the government. Such drugs are most popular in Hanoi, Ho
Chi Minh City and other major cities. During 2007, numerous cases
involving ATS trafficking and consumption were reported in the
media, including mass arrests following raids on popular
Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction. According to the SODC (Standing
Office for Drug Control), by the end of June, there were 166,291
officially registered drug users nationwide. Included in that
figure are 88,315 addicts living in the community, and 45,263 and
32,713 other addicts living, respectively, in MPS (Ministry of
Public Security) prisons and MOLISA (Ministry of Labor, War Invalids
and Social Affairs) treatment centers. Vietnam has 87
provincial-level treatment centers providing treatment to about
58,000 drug addicts annually, a six-fold increase compared with
2001. The number of "unofficial" (i.e., not acknowledged officially)
drug users is at least 1.5 times higher. During the first six months
of 2007, 45,572 drug users received treatment, including 8,303 new
recipients. This year, the SODC reported that heroin accounts for
84.72 percent of drug use, while ATS use saw a significant increase,
especially among the youth.
Ministries distributed hundreds of thousands of antidrug leaflets
and videos, and organized antidrug 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 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 strives to
integrate addiction treatment and vocational training to facilitate
the rehabilitation of drug addicts. 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.
HIV/AIDS is a serious and growing problem in Vietnam. The epidemic
is closely related to intravenous drug use and commercial sex work.
At least 53 percent of known HIV cases are IDUs. A 2006 national
sentinel surveillance indicated a 23 percent HIV prevalence among
IDUs. However, in some provinces, the HIV prevalence is reported at
as high as 45 percent among IDUs. The Vietnamese National Strategy
for HIV Prevention and Control, launched in March 2004, presents a
comprehensive response to the HIV, including condom promotion, clean
needle and syringe programs, voluntary counseling and testing and
HIV/AIDS treatment and care. The GVN reported a total of 126,543 HIV
cases in the country. Out of that number, 24,788 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 FY07
funding, about $65.8 million, is distributed through key PEPFAR
agencies such as USAID, HHS/CDC, and the U.S. 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 seven current
focus provinces (Hanoi, Hai Phong, Quang Ninh, Ho Chi Minh City, Can
Tho, An Giang and Nghe An) where the epidemic is most severe;
however, PEPFAR also supports HIV counseling and testing and
community outreach for drug users and sex workers in 30 provinces.
From 2005 through 2007, USG-supported programs have trained nearly
43 substance abuse counselors/case managers who work in Hai Phong
and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). In cooperation with the HCMC, 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
Policy Initiatives. Under the Vietnam-U.S. Counternarcotics
Assistance LOA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection delivered
contraband enforcement training to GVN customs, border guards, and
maritime administration officials. This training included three
field visits for GVN officials to U.S. ports to observe best
practices and three in-country training courses held in major port
cities. Also under the LOA, DEA International Training Units
conducted an Airport Interdiction and Seizure Seminar in September.
During July and August, DEA and JIATF-W sponsored two-week Officer
Tactics and Safety training seminars for MPS and Border Army
officials in Hanoi and HCMC. Between January and September 2007,
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using State Department law enforcement assistance, 44 Vietnamese law
enforcement officers attended the International Law Enforcement
Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok. The USG also contributed to
counternarcotics efforts through the UNODC.
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 2007, 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 unilateral
action against drugs and drug trafficking. Vietnam still faces many
internal problems that make fighting drugs a challenge. USG-GVN
operational cooperation remains very limited pending the development
of a legal framework in Vietnam to allow foreign law enforcement
officers to participate in some manner in law enforcement
investigations on Vietnamese soil, or the signing of a bilateral
agreement between the United States and Vietnam that would create a
mechanism for the joint investigation and development of drug cases.
The November 2006 Memorandum of Understanding between DEA and the
GVN's Ministry of Public Security (MPS) is a first step in this
direction, but is non-binding in character and directly addresses
law enforcement cooperation only at the central government agency
level, rather than the operational or investigative level.
End text.
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