“This was Vietnam’s largest ever trial in terms of defendants, the number of death penalties given out and the amount of heroin involved,” judge Ngo Duc told AFP after the verdict was read out in the northern province of Quang Ninh – which borders China.
Reporters said that the defendants belong to four international smuggling rings that are responsible for trafficking heroin and other drugs from Laos into Vietnam and China as well. They had been doing this since 2006.
One of the leaders of the four smuggling rings broken up by the police remains at large, state media reported. Police disrupted the rings in August 2013, making arrests and seizing large quantities of illegal drugs, mainly, heroin. They also confiscated 20 luxury cars and dozens of guns and other weapons during the raid, state media reported.
Vietnam has some of the world’s toughest anti-drug laws, and we thought the United States was bad. Anyone found guilty of possessing more than 600 grams (21 ounces) of heroin, or more than 20 kilograms of opium, can face the death penalty. Convictions and sentences are usually revealed only by local media, which is strictly under state control.
The “Golden Triangle” region covering part of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar was formerly one of the world’s top producers of opium and heroin but has been overtaken by Afghanistan.
After a two-year break in carrying out capital punishment due to problems procuring chemicals for lethal injections, Vietnam executed its first prisoner by the method last August.The country currently now has more than 700 prisoners on death row, according to media reports and an AFP tally. Many have been sentenced for drug offenses including dozens of foreigners, although it has been decades since a foreign citizen was executed.
Due to problems with both procuring and producing domestically the chemicals required for lethal injections, some lawmakers have called for a return to executions by firing squad.