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National consultation strengthens Viet Nam's borders

Da Nang (Viet Nam), 18 August 2015 - The first four-day National Border Liaison Office (BLO) Consultation designed to promote greater border security was held in Da Nang on August 10-13, involving representatives from each of Viet Nam's 14 BLOs and the Ministries of Industry, Trade and Transportation. The consultation followed on the heels of the 8th Viet Nam National Project Steering Committee held in Hanoi on 7 August, also organized under UNODC's Regional Plan on Border Management and PATROL.

The national consultation, opened by Major General Pham Van Cac, Director of the Standing Office on Drugs and Crime (SODC) of the Ministry of Public Security, bought together over 50 participants from Viet Nam's Border Force, Customs, SODC, Anti-smuggling Police Department and various specialized and provincial Police agencies stationed at the country's BLOs to exchange information and intelligence related to current transnational organized crime threats at the border. In his opening address, General Cac stated that the national consultation displayed, "a strong determination and commitment of the Government of Viet Nam in expanding and improving international cooperation with UNODC and other countries in the region for peace, sustainability and development."

The rapid exchange of transnational crime information using standard operating procedures is a key BLO strategy in countering cross-border trafficking. Standard operating procedures to share information and intelligence were discussed throughout the entire consultation, with for frontline officers offering a number of refinements. Ms. Pham Thi Thu Huong Deputy Head of Viet Nam Customs Intelligence Division, emphasized that, "intelligence is only useful when it is shared quickly across agencies and borders."

The collection and utilization of multiple sources of data for law enforcement purposes, such as immigration and migrant smuggling data, was a key point of discussion. Ms. Ainsley Stinson, UNODC Expert on Migrant Smuggling, highlighted the value of irregular migration data to inform decisions for frontline operational intelligence and strategic national and regional policy, through tools such as the UNODC Voluntary Reporting System on Migrant Smuggling and Related Conduct (VRS-MSRC).

Representatives from the Ministries of Industry, Trade and Transportation also informed officers on infrastructure improvement projects at the border which will directly impact the BLOs. Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Thuyen, Deputy Director General, International Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Transportation emphasized that, "legitimate trade facilitation must be balanced with border security needs", pointing to the near completion of several significant infrastructure development projects which will increase the rapid flow of goods and people across the country's borders. Mr. Thuyen suggested several ways in which the Ministry of Transportation and BLO network might work together in the future, such as through joint border training opportunities.

UNODC equipped each BLO in Viet Nam with innovative Field Tablet technology which allows officers to access a wide array of law enforcement tools, such as the latest UNODC eLearning modules in Vietnamese, investigative, reference, communications and other tools, accessible at even the most remote BLO locations. In addition, UNODC distributed copies of its new anti-smuggling training manual for frontline border officers in Vietnamese, which provides officers with the basic knowledge, terminology and skills to identify and interdict transnational organized crimes at the border.

The UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and related protocols provide UNODC with the mandate to assist Member States in their struggle against various forms of transnational organized crime. Support by the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement of the US Department of State has enabled the UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific to strengthen border management in Viet Nam and throughout the Greater Mekong Sub-region.