Deploying Operation Mekong Dragon VI, Vietnam Customs joins hands to prevent drugs

VCN - Vietnam Customs and member countries have launched Operation Mekong Dragon VI with many specific programs in cooperation to fight against smuggling and illegal transportation of narcotics, wild flora and fauna.
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Vietnam Customs and members attended the opening ceremony of Mekong Dragon Operation VI. Photo: T.H
Vietnam Customs and members attended the opening ceremony of Mekong Dragon Operation VI. Photo: T.H

Key international campaign

Recently, in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Customs chaired a conference to deploy Operation Mekong Dragon VI with the participation of member units. At the conference, many specific programs in the cooperation activities to fight against smuggling and illegal transportation of narcotics and wild animals and plants were discussed and shared.

Authorized by the leadership of the General Department of Customs, in his opening remarks, Mr. Vu Quang Toan, Deputy Director, Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department, General Department of Vietnam Customs emphasized that, in Vietnam, the Campaign Mekong Dragon VI continues to be a key international campaign of the Customs force, with the attention and direction of the Prime Minister and leaders of the Ministry of Finance, along with the participation and enthusiastic support from two specialized agencies of the Ministry of Public Security that are the Environmental Crime Prevention Police Department (C05) and the Narcotics Crime Investigation Police Department (C04), the campaign has become a highlight in cooperation activities to fight against smuggling and illegal transportation of narcotics, wild animals and plants at the national and international levels.

Notably, from October 2023 until now, Vietnam Customs has coordinated and presided over the discovery and arrest of many cases of illegal transportation of wild animals and plants under the CITES list. Typically on March 23, 2024, at Lach Huyen port, Hai Phong, Hai Phong Customs Department presided and coordinated with competent forces to seize 1.6 tons of ivory from Africa that was cut into pieces and painted black to avoid the control of authorities.

In the first 3 months of 2024, the Customs sector presided over and coordinated with the Police and Border Guard forces to detect and arrest 92 cases, with 87 subjects, seizing hundreds of kilograms and thousands of drug pills of all kinds. Statistics on drug seizures in Vietnam show an increasing trend over the same period, in which Ketamine is the main drug seized in 2023.

The representative of the General Department of Customs said that the above figures show that the illegal transportation of drugs, wild animals and plants is still taking place more sophisticatedly in the context of many unpredictable changes in the world economy. This poses a big challenge for management agencies, requiring law enforcement forces, such as: Customs, Police, Domestic Border Guards and international law enforcement agencies to actively coordinate to achieve the highest control efficiency.

Vietnam Customs consistently affirms its efforts to implement the commitments of the Vietnamese Government, more proactively cooperate with member Customs agencies, and with international organizations in fighting smuggling and illegally transporting drugs and wildlife as well as other types of transnational crimes.

Join hands to implement

At the conference to deploy Mekong Dragon Campaign VI, members participating in the campaign highly appreciated and thanked the General Department of Vietnam Customs for the invitation to attend the Conference to deploy Mekong Dragon Campaign VI.

Mr. Toshihiko Osawa, Head of RILO A/P Office, said that RILO A/P Office in Tokyo began operating in January 2024, and is very interested in drugs originating from the Golden Triangle region. The Golden Triangle or extended Mekong Subregion is the main source of drugs, especially Methamphetamine. Operation Mekong Dragon is a campaign focusing on activities to prevent illegal cross-border drug and wildlife smuggling in the region. In that context, it can be said that this campaign perfectly meets the needs of members, adding value to the implementation.

This year, up to now, the campaign has 20 members including international organizations registered to participate. To operate successfully, it is important that each member enters arrest data in a timely manner, this allows all participating members to access the latest arrest information as well as helps us analyze trends quickly and disseminate information about key products within the scope of the campaign. “This event will provide a good opportunity for us to share experiences, discuss better ways to fight drug and wildlife trafficking, and strengthen the fight against organized crime " - Mr. Toshihiko Osawa shared.

Ms. Jenna Dawson Faber, Regional Coordinator of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), shared that illegal trade in wildlife, timber as well as illegal drugs and precursors is a major problem globally, and the Asia-Pacific region is one of the major hotspots for such illegal activities. This illegal trade generates huge profits for organized crime networks, promotes corruption and violence, and threatens the environment and public health. Therefore, we must fight together against these criminals and Operation Mekong Dragon is an example of international cooperation. Over the years, Operation Mekong Dragon has made significant strides in stopping the illegal trade of drugs and CITES-listed wild animals and plants.

UNODC stands ready to provide general support and technical assistance to all members involved in combating illegal drug and wildlife trafficking. UNODC stands ready to support you to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies in the region and promote international cooperation and collaboration.

Emphasizing the role of cooperation between China Customs and Vietnam Customs in implementing the campaign, Ms. Wang Beijing, Head of International Enforcement Cooperation Department, Anti-Smuggling Department, Chinese General Department of Customs said, the results of the Campaign are widely recognized in bilateral and multilateral cooperation frameworks such as the Joint Statement of the leaders of China and Vietnam in December 2023 and the 44th WCO Implementation Committee in March 2024. Building on the success of Operation Mekong Dragon over the years, China Customs and Vietnam Customs initiated Operation Mekong Dragon VI this year with support from RILO A/P and UNODC to better address challenges caused by changes in smuggling routes and operating methods.

Taking wood smuggling as an example, Ms. Wang Beijing said that China Customs organized a workshop for Laos and Vietnam in March this year in Ningbo, China, the first workshop under the Mekong Dragon Campaign that focuses on enforcement activities against timber smuggling.

To create synergy with Operation Mekong Dragon VI, China Customs has also organized domestic operations targeting wildlife and drug trafficking. China Customs has strengthened risk profiling, goods surveillance, and leveraged smart and high-tech technology to exploit the potential of mission execution.

Delegates attended the opening ceremony of Operation Mekong Dragon VI. Photo: T.H
Delegates attended the opening ceremony of Operation Mekong Dragon VI. Photo: T.H
By Le Thu/ Phuong Linh

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