ASEAN boosts cooperation in fighting against smuggling

ASEAN boosts cooperation in fighting against smuggling

The Ba Ria - Vung Tau Border Guard detected and prevented a large number of smuggling cases at sea. Photo: VNA

Due to its geographic position, bounded by the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states have seen an increase in smuggling in recent years. ASEAN has been closely monitoring and implementing strong measures in trying to prevent these crimes.


The report of transnational crime in Southeast Asia from The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2019 indicated that Southeast Asia is one of the most popular transit regions for international crime and it has a deep connection with other notorious areas of transnational organized crime. The overall plan by the ASEAN Political-Security Community 2025 also identifies the prevention and fighting against transnational crime, especially the crime of smuggling at sea, as one of the priorities for ASEAN.


Established by the 1997 ASEAN Declaration on Transnational Crime, the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC) is held annually with the participation of the transnational crime ministers. The AMMTC is also the highest policy-making body on issues related to ASEAN's cooperation in preventing and fighting transnational crimes.

The Vietnam Coast Guard regularly patrols and monitors to prevent commercial fraud in Vietnamese waters. Photo: VNA

Currently, ASEAN is focusing on preventing 10 transnational and maritime crimes in the region, including terrorism, human trafficking, smuggling of migrants, drug trafficking, arms smuggling, money laundering, high-tech crime, economic crime, piracy and timber, and wildlife smuggling. Some of these crimes are operating in the area at an alarming level.

Border guards of Da Nang patrol and control at Tho Quang boat gate. Photo: Quoc Dung/VNA


As the initiative of Vietnam, ASEAN's ARF Declaration on enhancing cooperation among maritime law enforcement agencies was adopted in 2016. The declaration calls on the maritime law enforcement agencies of ARF members to strengthen cooperation through activities such as experience sharing, joint patrols, anti-piracy drills, ensuring freedom of navigation, and building mutual rules and standards. From 2016 up to now, the law enforcement of ASEAN has worked closely to prevent smuggling at sea.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the last months of 2021 and early 2022, Vietnam saw an increase in criminal activities at sea. Since then, the government has directed its coast guard to proactively prepare forces and vessels, go on patrols and inspect and control the assigned waters. The coast guard went on patrol and took control of key areas for smuggling, trade fraud, and illegal transportation of goods in places such as the Northeast Sea, waters bordering with Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand and the Southwest Sea.


In 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, Vietnamese functional forces have caught many acts of smuggling firecrackers, coal, gasoline and oil at sea. Photo: VNA


In early 2022, apart from "traditional" items such as coal, ore, gasoline, oil and tobacco, the criminals began smuggling new ones like household goods and medical products for COVID-19. Authorities of ASEAN members have continued cracking down on hundreds of criminal cases.

ASEAN will continue fighting against smuggling at sea to create a safe and lawful region.


  • Story:  Phong Thu & Hong Hanh
  • Photos:  VNA