January 14, 2011 - While cross-border smuggling in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta's border areas has decreased somewhat, no headway has been made against the trafficking of cigarette, local authorities concede.
They say that the highly porous borders, lack of co-ordination between concerned agencies, lax local management as well as increasingly sophisticated and risky ruses employed by smugglers make containment extremely difficult.
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The three hotspots for the smuggling in the region are the provinces of An Giang, Dong Thap and Kien Giang, all of which border Cambodia. In the lead up to the Tet (Lunar New Year) festival, the inflow of smuggled cigarettes from this area to Ho Chi Minh City (HCM City) has increased significantly.
The three Mekong Delta provinces account for 80 percent of the total smuggled cigarettes consumed in the HCM City and the Delta markets.
The most common method of smuggling cigarette was to transport them after splitting the cargo into smaller amounts, mostly by motorbikes that travel at high speed. The drivers always chose to go into heavy traffic during peak hours, making it very difficult for the police and customs officers to chase and catch them.
According to the Viet Nam Tobacco Association, only one per cent, or 7.3 million packs, of the total cigarettes smuggled into Viet Nam was seized last year. Around 800 million packs were smuggled into Viet Nam last year through the southern region's western border, equivalent to 20 percent of the nation's total consumption.
Last year saw Kien Giang customs and police crack 38 smuggling cases and seize property worth more than VND300 million (US$15,300), including a small number of cigarette cases. This was 24 per cent lower than the previous year. In the first 11 months of last year, anti-smuggling forces in Long An managed to seize only around 900,000 packs of cigarette.
Reference: ‘Smoking gun' evades Delta officialsViet Nam News, 1/14/2011.
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Viet Nam is a member of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca).