We arrived at Dong Thap border when functional forces were deploying an operation of anti-smuggling in Hong Ngu district, Hong Ngu town and on the two provincial routes 841 and So Thuong as planned.
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Smuggling cigarettes remain
Mr. Nguyen Chi Hoa, Director of Phuong Thuoc border gate Customs Branch said that the level of smuggling at Phuong Thuoc border gate area failed to reduce from the beginning of 2016 compared to 2015. The main smuggled items are sugar, foreign cigarettes, wood and wooden products. Smuggled goods are regularly moved from the grand warehouse Kaomsano (Cambodia), crossing Tien River and gathered in the warehouse opposite Thuong Phuoc border gate area. This situation is forecast to increase in the last months of this year. There are about 3 tons of goods, including foreign cigarettes, sugar, beverage, spirits, motorcycles being regularly transported by ferry boat from Kaoomsamor to four spots in the border area under Koroca district (Cambodia) which is opposite Thuong Phuoc border checkpoint.
At present, the level of Tien river is still high, which enables the easy trafficking of goods from Cambodia to Vietnam. Functional forces in Hong Ngu district such as Customs, Border Defense have conducted their operation of anti-smuggling mainly on the provincial route 841 connecting Thuong Phuoc border checkpoint to Hong Ngu Town since October 25, 2016. The forces have found around 3,500 packs of foreign cigarettes.
The border route along So Thuong river connecting Hong Ngu district with Hong Ngu Town is still a hot spot of smuggling cigarettes. From here, on crossing the river, smuggled cigarettes are quickly transported to the town by motorbike. This is a rather narrow route with crowded habitants but smugglers drive very fast and dangerously, ignoring accidents for moving their goods to the destinations in the town center. Then, the goods are divided into small packages and loaded in coaches, buses or transported by motorbike with each trip of 750 to 1000 packs on national route No. 30. Smugglers even attack functional forces. The attacking of two border defense soldiers when they seized cigarettes in Dong Thap border area in early October was an example. While Customs news reporters were going on a trip in So Thuong, functional forces including Customs, Police, and Border Defense were in coordination with local forces to set up a commanding position and capture smuggled goods moving from So Thuong to Hong Ngu Town. In addition, the commanding unit of Dong Thap border defense force also sent their on-spot unit to join anti-smuggling later.
From the beginning of the year to now, Customs forces seized nearly 50,000 packs of cigarettes of all kinds. Mr. Nguyen Thanh Toan, Deputy Director of Dong Thap Customs Department shared that smugglers used all concealing methods to bring cigarettes inland. They concealed goods in packages of rice, breeding food, fertilizer or in baskets. Smugglers disguised themselves as miscellaneous articles sellers and buyers to transport goods by motorbike for delivery. Sometimes smugglers asked pupils to conceal goods in their school bags when meeting functional forces.
According to some sources of information, cigarette smugglers are facing difficulties but smuggling cigarettes still continues. From January 2016 (Decree 124/2015/ND-CP came into force) to May 2016, smugglers were afraid of criminal treatment stipulated in this decree. Therefore, the trafficking of foreign cigarettes decreased in terms of quantity, frequency and smugglers. However, from June 2016 till now, the situation has become more serious due to regulations of the articles No. 190, 191 of the Criminal Code 2015. In the light of the regulations, smugglers shall be treated in a criminal manner if they traffic or sell banned goods valued at 50 million vnd across the border or valued at 100 million vnd inland. Thus, functional forces could not treat the cases of trafficking over 500 packs of cigarettes in criminal procedures as prescribed in the item 2, the article 25 of the Decree 124/2015/ND-CP.
More complicated situation
In Dong Thap border areas, in addition to foreign cigarettes, certain commodities such as wood, drugs, machines used in agriculture, paint made in Thailand are being leaked inland. Particularly, paint made in Thailand is a favourite. This kind of good is trafficked across the border and then carried in coaches to Ho Chi Minh City for consumption. Recently, the Customs enforcement unit of Dong Thap Customs Department caught 144 boxes of paint made in Thailand which were being illegally transported across the border.
Machines used in agriculture, mainly harvesters and beaters are often trafficked on wooden ferry boats. The smugglers said that they carried the machines for repair but in fact they brought the machines inland for domestic consumption. In 2016, Dong Thap Customs Department handled two cases of trafficking harvesters and beaters which were seized by the Customs enforcement unit. Each machine was valued at several hundred million vnd and one used digger with brand name Kobelco cost more than 120 million vnd.
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Regarding wood, from the beginning of the year to now, although the quantity and value of this commodity is not too high, smugglers still transport across the border. Dong Thap Customs have seized seven cases of trafficking wood valued at nearly 250 million vnd. When the Customs enforcement unit was inspecting a warehouse of Mr. Nguyen Van Thanh in Binh Hoa Thuong hamlet, Thuong Thoi hau A commune, Hong Ngu district, they discovered a huge amount of Giang Huong wood (a valuable kind of wood) in sheets and boxes valued at over 45 million vnd without legal invoices. Mr. Thanh admitted that the wood was purchased from sellers in Cambodia, who illegally transported into Vietnam.
Subsurface waves of smuggling are flowing across Dong Thap border and functional forces are struggling against this situation which is forecast to get more serious by the end of the year.
(By Phuong Lien)
Đăng Nguyên/Phương Liên