As the Lunar New Year (Tet) festival draws nearer, smuggling has increased exponentially at border gates in the central provinces of Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue, putting pressure on authorities to stop illegally imported goods from getting into the country.

Border guards at the Cha Lo Border Gate in Quang Binh on January 23 stopped a case of 1,000 firecrackers – which are prohibited in Vietnam – from being brought from Laos .
Smuggler Nguyen Quang Thiu admitted to border guards that he bought Chinese firecrackers to serve demands for Tet.

The Lao Bao Border Gate in Quang Tri's guards found 263 Chinese firecrackers on board a bus. The smuggler, a Quang Binh resident named Doan Van Son, said he bought the firecrackers in adjacent Ha Tinh province.

The cases are still under investigation.

Police in Quang Tri also stopped five motorcyclists on National Highway 9 near the local Lao Bao Border Gate, and found smuggled tobacco and fruit blenders. The motorcyclists left their bikes at the scene and fled into a nearby forest. Police seized the goods for investigation.

Trading of counterfeit goods is also on the rise, as people prepare big family meals for Tet, which will last from February 15-23.

Quang Binh's Market Watch Unit found 340kg of fake fried squid made from tapioca starch being stored in a warehouse in Dong Hoi city. The owner, Nguyen Thi Le Nhung, failed to provide food safety documents for the squid.

In Thua Thien-Hue, police last week stopped a truck from central Binh Dinh province carrying chickens and chicken eggs. Cao Dinh Thang, the cargo's owner, failed to show veterinary certification for the eggs.

Police in Quang Tri's Huong Hoa district, home to the Lao Bao Border Gate, said that in addition to catching smugglers in the act of transporting, police have also found a great deal of smuggled items hidden in locals' homes.

Col. Phan Thanh Quang told a local newspaper that police, customs staff and border guards are doing their best to fight smuggling at the Lao Bao Border Gate, a regional hotspot.-VNA