When the border area is peaceful – Part 1 Is Lang Son no longer a hot spot for smuggling

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On the roads from the border gates, the trail leading to Dong Dang town no longer sees the silhouette of motorbikes and cars.. Photo: H.N
On the roads from the border gates, the trail leading to Dong Dang town no longer sees the silhouette of motorbikes and cars.. Photo: H.N

In the early days of August, we returned to the border of Lang Son after nearly three years. Going through the roads from Dong Dang town to border gate areas such as Tan Thanh, Coc Nam, Chi Ma, Huu Nghi, what we clearly see is that all smuggling and illegal transport of goods seems to as “past times”. The statistics from Lang Son Customs Department also showed that, as of August 12, the unit has detected and handled 844 violations, with an estimated value of evidence of nearly VND29.2 billion, dropping by 25.7% in cases and 13.2% in the value of infringing goods over the same period in 2021.

Quiet days…

Compared to 2-3 years ago, at this time in Lang Son, everyone could clearly see the rare peace in a border province. The border area only sees container trucks, trucks carrying agricultural products, fresh fruit, raw materials, machinery and equipment slowly moving towards the border gate area for carrying out clearance procedures. On the roads from the border gates, the trail leading to Dong Dang town no longer sees the silhouette of motorbikes and cars.

Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic (in 2020), all entry, exit and import-export activities are only maintained at four border gates: Huu Nghi, Tan Thanh, Chi Ma, and Dong Dang international railway station. There are times when only 2-3 border gates or only railway lines can be operated. And it is also easy to feel the “hot” situation of smuggling and illegal transport of goods at the border of Lang Son has “cooled down”.

In the story that was told on the way, a Tan Thanh Customs officer said that since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, on both sides of the Vietnam – China border, the competent forces tightened the entry and exit of the country at the border gates and the opening paths. In parallel with that, the Chinese side has built a closed wall hence the smuggling and illegal transport of goods through trails, opening paths and hills in the border area was almost gone.

We continue to move through the landmark 1088/2 area, the road connecting Tan Thanh border gate to Kha Phong (China). From the distance, we saw the barracks of 2-3 soldiers and officers of the Border Defence-Customs force perform duty 24 hours a day. Looking down at the road specializing in freight forwarding, the convoys of trucks and containers were still moving in succession.

In front of us, the Chinese side built pillars and erected a barbed wire fence about 3.5m high to separate the two countries. At the same time, many surveillance cameras are installed, along with that was lighting systems, warning speakers, etc. Therefore, the illegal transport of goods through trails, opening paths and hills in the bordering area has decreased sharply. At the Ro Bon trail, at present, there were white clumps of white reeds, the air that gives off a feeling of desperation.

Mr. Be Thai Hung, Deputy Director of Tan Thanh Customs Branch (Lang Son Customs Department) shared that since the pandemic outbreak, the Chinese side was concerned about the development of the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, it strengthened inspection and strict control of people and goods crossing the border, leading to slow cargo clearance. As for the trail area between Vietnam and China, all of them have strengthened inspection and closed the border to fight smuggling and illegal infiltration, so the situation of smuggling did not occur.

According to the report of Tan Thanh Customs Branch, by the end of July 31, 2022, the unit only detected 156 cases of customs administrative violations with a fine of over VND577 million. From this data, it could be seen that, in the first seven months of the year, there were no cases arising in the area related to smuggling and illegal transport of goods across the border in the area. This further confirmed that the situation of smuggling and illegal transportation of goods across borders, trails, and opening paths at Tan Thanh border gate area has been controlled.

In the area of ​​​​Dong Dang town, where the anti-smuggling work of competent forces encountered many difficulties with many locations and warehouses close to the border area. However, the road from Dong Dang town to Coc Nam border gate was quiet and peaceful. In Dong Dang market, stalls were closed, but according to people in this area, all trading and business activities have been “frozen” since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The statistics from the Steering Committee 389 of Lang Son province showed that, in the first seven months of the year, the provincial competent forces inspected 2,467 cases; sanctioning 2,161 cases of administrative violations; the total amount of administrative violation handling was VND25.4 billion, 217 cases and 314 subjects have been prosecuted.

Not to be subjective

The Steering Committee 389 of Lang Son province said that although smuggling and illegal transportation of goods across the border in the area were basically prevented, the competent forces had solutions to prevent and handle thus the situation of smuggling, trade fraud and counterfeit goods through the area decreased. However, the potential risk was still very high.

Also according to the Steering Committee 389 of Lang Son province, smuggling and trade fraud in import and export activities had not been thoroughly controlled, especially some enterprises took advantage of the electronic clearance policy to commit fraud such as failing to declare, or declaring incorrectly the quantity and type of goods, inserting contraband, banned goods, smuggled goods in the vehicles transporting imported goods, taking advantage of regulations on goods labeling to cheat on origin.

Besides that, trade fraud through e-commerce, transportation of contraband and counterfeit goods by post and express delivery still has potential for an outbreak.

Mr. Luong Trong Quynh, Vice Chairman of the People’s Committee of Lang Son province, Director of Steering Committee 389 of Lang Son province, said that in the future, they will continue to grasp and implement the direction of the Government, National Steering Committee 389, Provincial Party Committee, Provincial People’s Committee on the fight against smuggling, trade fraud and counterfeit goods. In particular, members, agencies, departments and forces of the province should continue to carry out inspections and supervision of anti-smuggling activities of competent units; thoroughly grasp and strictly implement the direction of the central government and the province in the fight against smuggling, trade fraud and fake goods.

Discussing the control and supervision of goods to prevent enterprises from taking advantage of the e-clearance policy to commit trade fraud, Mr. Vu Tuan Binh, Deputy Director of Lang Son Customs Department said, the unit directed the Customs Enforcement team and border-gate customs branches to strengthen patrols and control in order to promptly detect, prevent, and handle smugglers.

Furthermore, focusing on controlling groups of banned items, goods affecting security and social safety, counterfeit goods, low-quality goods, goods infringing on intellectual property rights, and goods for Covid-19 prevention.

Moreover, strengthening information collection and processing; proactively coordinating with competent forces in the area to strengthen patrol and control of the area, combined with close supervision of goods imported and exported through border gates in order to detect, and strictly handle organizations and individuals that commit acts of smuggling, trade fraud, forgery of origin and illegally transport of goods across borders.

Also, the units have regularly collected information about enterprises, subjects, import and export goods, focusing on the group of products that are at risk of fraud in value, have high tax rates, goods with high tax rates, conditional import and export, goods registered for intellectual property rights and high-risk businesses.

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