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Tuesday, March 3, 1998 Published at 18:31 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Drug traffickers executed in Vietnam
image: [ The golden triangle from which the drugs flow ]
The golden triangle from which the drugs flow

The executions have taken place in Vietnam of seven convicted drug traffickers in the latest demonstration of government resolve in tackling the narcotics trade. But the harsh punishment reserved for drugs offenders is doing little to stem the rapid increase in drug-related crime in Vietnam, as our South-East Asia corrrespondent Simon Ingram reports.

The seven drug smugglers, who included a police officer working with the Interior Ministry and a woman, were executed by firing squad before dawn on the outskirts of the capital, Hanoi.

After being blind-folded and tied to wooden stakes, they were shot by a 35-man firing squad.

[ image: The poppy: source of the world's opium]
The poppy: source of the world's opium
A sizeable crowd had gathered to watch the proceedings, a reminder of the intense public interest which followed the highly publicised trial of former police captain, Vu xuan Truong, and his accomplices.

They were convicted last May of forming a crime syndicate which smuggled over 400 kg of heroin into Vietnam from neighbouring Laos.

Evidence produced in court, suggested the involvement of other more senior government officials.

The trial and the executions which ensued are meant to underline the determination of the authorities to crack down on the drugs trade.

But recent statistics suggest the five-year old campaign has been a failure.

Delegates at a national conference on drug abuse, held last month, were told that while opium cultivation had declined, smuggling and other drug-related crime was increasing rapidly.

The number of cases had risen sixteen-fold since 1993.

Local drug use is concentrated among young people in Hanoi and other urban areas.

But the conference was told that Vietnam, with its lengthy land and sea borders, had also become an important conduit for illegal narcotics produced in the golden triangle opium-growing region straddling the borders of Burma, China, Thailand and Laos.

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