A massive haul of nearly 300 kilograms of methamphetamine pills was seized in central Vietnam on Sunday, police said, the latest major drug bust in a country where the use of synthetic narcotics is on the rise.
While Vietnam has some of the toughest drug laws in the world, it remains a popular transport hub and destination market for narcotics smuggled in from the notorious “Golden Triangle” — a lawless border zone that straddles Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.
Opium and heroin have long been the drugs of choice among older users, but lab-made powders and pills — like methamphetamine in particular — are gaining popularity among young Vietnamese.
The latest bust occurred in Ha Tinh province early Sunday around 1:00 am, when police, border defense forces and custom authorities found the drugs inside a van with a Lao license plate, according to a report.
Authorities found dozens of golden-coloured plastic bags containing 294 kilograms (648 pounds) of methamphetamine, the report published on the Ha Tinh police website said.
A Laotian suspect was arrested during the bust, police said.
“Due to the darkness, dangerous terrain and dense fog, another male suspect… managed to flee into the woods to escape,” said the report.
State-run Vietnam Television called the bust the “second largest meth-trafficking case” in recent years.
In October last year, police found 309 kilograms of methamphetamine after pulling over a speeding truck in central Quang Binh province. The haul was worth an estimated $3 million.
Communist-run Vietnam has some of the harshest punishments for drug trafficking in the world, and anyone caught with more than 600 grams (21 ounces) of heroin can be sentenced to death.
Authorities have struggled to contain the growing usage among youths of synthetic drugs such as ecstasy, methamphetamines and ketamine.
Officials and advocates have warned against the dangers of drug use after seven Vietnamese revellers died after overdosing at an electronic music festival in Hanoi last September.
Lab-made powders and pills — like methamphetamine — are gaining popularity among young Vietnamese.