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Monday, January 22, 2018, 13:54 (GMT+7)
Phu Yen Border Guard in the fight against maritime crimes and smuggling

Phu Yen is a coastal province in South Central Vietnam. Its neighbor provinces are Binh Dinh in the north and Khanh Hoa in the south. The province has 4 coastal districts and towns, stretching along a 189 km coastline and possessing about 6,900 km2 of waters. The terrain in this area consists of many small bays, basins and marshes which are great environments for seaborne economic activities such as fishery, tourism or maritime commerce. However, this area is also hotspot for illegal activities via waterways. Over the past few years, Phu Yen enforcement elements have managed to stabilize the situation; however, many complicated developments still exist. These activities include: drug trafficking and possession, assault and battery, public order disruption, thief and robbery; illegal immigration, illegal fishing, prostitution, smuggling and unfair trade activities, etc. Under the guidance and leadership of Vietnam’s Border Guard High Command and Phu Yen Provincial Administration, the province’s border guard has constantly directed its contingents to work with administrative offices and branches and districts’ authorities to implement a wide range of approaches to stop and eliminate seaborne illegal activities.

First, the Provincial Border Guard Command and Party Committee ordered its subordinate units to cooperate with local authorities and civil offices to propagate and encourage citizens to follow the Party’s principles and strategies, the State’s laws and policies, local rules and regulations, as well as specific guidelines which have direct effects on seaborne activities such as maritime traffic and transportations, fishing and maritime trade, etc. The main focus of propaganda activities was providing information about legal documents to help people have clear awareness of laws and regulations which are applied for maritime borders, border checkpoints in ports; and other related issues such as anti-smuggling, combating unfair trade or eliminating counterfeit commodities. Also, fishermen were encouraged to take responsibility in combating crimes and reporting illegal activities; and pledge to strictly follow the rules during their operations on the sea. There are several notable examples of these activities, such as:  Xuan Dai Border Guard Post carried out propaganda program to persuade local fishermen not to use prohibited fishing tools in Xuan Dai Bay (Song Cau Town); Hai An Border Guard Post managed to convince 55 households not to use explosives in fishing activities; or Vung Ro Port Border Guard successfully persuaded over 3000 tourists not to use service of unregistered restaurants and watercraft. In addition, Phu Yen Border Guard proactively dealt with foreigners who used cover as tourists to conduct illegal preaching activities or disrupt public order, thus managed to maintain public safety and stability in the province’s coastal areas.

Phu Yen Border Guard Command and Party Committee also increasingly issued orders and instructions to combat crimes at sea border areas. Fully grasping the threat of maritime crimes, the provincial border guard force introduced a wide range of approaches to combat different types of criminal threats, especially drug-related ones. Specialized teams were utilized to identify suspected individuals and areas to propose appropriate method for this problem. According to investigations, drug-related hotspots were Xuan Hai Commune, Song Cau Town; 7th and 9th Wards, Tuy Hoa City; Hoa Hiep Trung, Hoa Tam, Hoa Xuan Nam Town, Dong Hoa District. Besides, in An Chan and An My Commune, Tuy An District; An Phu Commune, Tuy Hoa City; and Hoa Tam Commune, Dong Hoa District, there were counterfeit money-related activities. Also, illegal explosives using and trading activities appeared in coastal areas stretching from Xuan Canh Commune to Xuan Hai Commune, Song Cau Town; and An Chan Commune, An Hai Commune, Tuy An District. In addition, hotspots for illegal immigration were Dan Phuoc Port, Song Cau Town; 6th Ward Port, Tuy Hoa City; and Vung Ro Border Port, Dong Hoa District. And last but not least, smuggling and illegal trading were rampant in waters between Phu Yen and Binh Dinh; Vung Ro Port, Hoa Xuan Nam Commune, Dong Hoa District; 6th Ward, Tuy Hoa City, etc.

Phu Yen Provincial Border Guard Command ordered specialized teams to study smugglers’ operational methods to develop effective countermeasures. Investigations explored that smugglers often collaborated with foreigners working on transport ships. They normally made agreements on when and where to delivery commodities, how to make payment and then conducted boarding at sea border areas or places that were covered by terrain to unload cargos and used counterfeit papers to validate those products. To avoid being caught by enforcement units, foreign smuggling ships often anchored near sea borderlines, waiting for Vietnamese smuggling ships to transport their goods into Vietnam. After that, some Vietnamese companies would do paperwork or use fake documents to validate those smuggling products. There was even a firm that used its cover as a ship cleaning company to purchase spare fuel from ocean liners then resell the fuel in domestic market.

To deal with these illegal activities, the provincial border guard command ordered its subordinate units to increase border crime combating operations, in which basic investigation was considered to play a key role. That said, border guard units conducted thorough surveys on suspected trading businesses; focusing on investigating products’ point of  origin by collecting intel from different sources such as confidential informants or civilian collaborators to expose smuggling chains. After that, units filed cases to implement anti-smuggling and anti-fake product operations. At the same time, the provincial border guard command’s Drug Enforcement and Anti-Crime Team was also ordered to open investigations on sea smuggling and illegal trading activities and enhance sea surveillance. That said, foreign trading ships which checked in at Vung Ro Port or sought shelter in storms were closely watched to identify unusual activities to deter smuggling, illegal trading or other types of crimes.

Fully grasp and closely follow guidelines issued by Ministry of National Defense and Vietnam’s Border Guard High Command, Phu Yen Province People’s Committee and Border Guard Command developed specialized projects to combat smuggling and illegal trading. That said, there was a major project specifically issued for combating these crimes on Tet Holiday 2017 and a coordination action plan for this, which included 48th Border Guard Naval Squadron, Phu Yen Police and Binh Dinh Province Custom Agency. At the same time, border guard posts were ordered to file cases for maritime anti-smuggling and anti-illegal trading operations. Thanks to these activities and the effective cooperation of different units, Phu Yen Border Guard was able to achieve a lot of impressive results in the fight against sea smuggling and illegal trading. Most notably, on April 12, 2016, the provincial border guard, assisted by 48th Border Guard Naval Squadron and Unit 2 (Drug Enforcement and Anti-Crime Department, Vietnam’s Border Guard High Command), uncovered 4,346.933 tons of undocumented Ron 92 petrol on the Dominican ship Swift. After that, the provincial border force confiscated the fuel and fined the ship’s captain, the petrol later was resold and the money was transferred to public fund.

To fulfill the task of protecting sovereignty, maintaining maritime security and combating maritime crimes in Phu Yen waters, in the upcoming years, the provincial border guard will focus on the following approaches.

1. Fully grasp and strictly follow guidelines, resolutions and orders issued by superior command; uphold the role and responsibility of border guard units in the province and systematically implement different approaches, closely monitor the socio-political situation to effectively combat all types of crimes and maintain political stability and public order in assigned areas and waters.

2. Border guard contingents in Phu Yen Province must consider basic investigation as the main focus to fully understand the situation in assigned areas and suspected individuals in the regions; besides, they must conduct classification and create profiles for businesses and individuals that are alleged to involve in smuggling to develop appropriate countermeasures.

3. Enhance the cooperation and information exchange programs among enforcement bodies (police, custom, maritime police, navy); and develop effective plans to counter maritime crimes and smuggling activities. Besides, the province’s border guard must work with local authorities and administrative departments to implement propaganda and education programs to convince citizens and fishermen to strictly follow the Party’s line and principles, the State’s laws and policies, as well as maritime rules and regulations, and encourage them to report criminal activities; pushing ahead “All citizens take part in protecting national sovereignty and border security” movement under Prime Minister’s Guideline 01/CT-TTg issued on January 9, 2015.

Combating sea crimes and sea smuggling has always been a key political task of Phu Yen Border Guard. The accomplishment of this task will help maintain political stability and public order in sea border areas in Phu Yen Province, creating favorable environment for fishing activities and attracting more domestic as well as foreign investment into the province’s economy.

Senior Colonel Nguyen Van Minh, Commander of Phu Yen Provincial Border Guard

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