Increased raids at karaoke bars are failing to discourage drug users in Việt Nam from turning these popular entertainment venues into drug dens.
On February 29, 34 people including two waiters were arrested in a midnight drug bust at Hoàng Hà Hoàng Karaoke Bar in Biên Hoà City, Đồng Nai Province. Four plates covered in white crystals that looked like meth were found at the scene. Quick tests showed 33 of the people had been taking drugs.
The bar had previously been closed for the same reason, but after reopening, it went straight back to its old ways.
Another karaoke parlour in the province called Ngọc Linh is also well-known as a haven for partying youths. Ten drug users were taken to the police station following a raid in late February, according to Đồng Nai Province Police.
In two first months of 2020, local law enforcement forces launched investigations into several karaoke bars. Every raid found people high on banned substances.
At 11pm on February 1, the Ministry of Public Security and Đồng Nai Province Police raided Phương Nam Karaoke Bar in Long Khánh City, where they arrested ten people.
According to the initial investigation, bar manager Đỗ Xuân Thăng, 26 years old from Quảng Trị Province, had purchased the drugs and resold them to his customers.
The city police have started legal proceedings against Thăng.
Meanwhile, in his hometown, gathering in karaoke bars is a trend among drug users as the cost is affordable for partying youngsters compared to bars or pubs.
Chợt Nhớ Karaoke Bar in Thanh Khê District, Đà Nẵng City is a local blackspot which was raided twice in 2019 where many couples were caught sniffing ketamine.
The bar later found reopened on the quiet despite being closed by local authorities.
Most drug users in Quảng Nam Province were young, from 17 to 30, the provincial police said, adding hundreds of them were taken in for questioning following raids.
Colonel Phan Duy Thạch, deputy head of Thanh Khê District Police, told Thanh Niên (Young people) newspaper that karaoke bar owners who stored or sold drugs would be detained for investigation.
Bars which allowed customers to use drugs and banned substances would be fined from VNĐ5 million (US$214) to VNĐ10 million, or shut down.
Thạch said they had expose wrongdoings at karaoke parlours, bars and pubs where party-goers gather to use drugs.
“We need to plug existing loopholes and have stricter punishments for trading and consuming drugs,” said Thạch.
Major Đồng Phước Nam of Quảng Nam Province Police said light punishments would not prevent karaoke owners from violating laws to make huge profits.
Colonel Nguyễn Hà Lai, deputy director of Quảng Nam Province, said in most cases, it was difficult to verify the involvement of karaoke parlour owners in drug trading and use, making it difficult to put an end to the addiction epidemic in Việt Nam.
While heroin has been long common among Vietnamese drug users, synthetic drugs including ketamine and meth are preferred by partying youngsters. The country has been reported as a key regional transiting hub for drugs produced in the Golden Triangle.
In late February, PM Nguyễn Xuân Phúc urged for tightened international cooperation, taking efficient mechanisms and strengthening management to prevent Việt Nam from becoming the world’s major transit point for illegal substances.
The country has cracked down on many international and inter-provincial drug crimes in the past two years, and cooperated with other Southeast Asian countries to bust large-scale rings.