The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia

The Vietnamese Army: Marketing the Product

While the Vietnamese navy is involved in drug importing, pro-Thieu elements of the Vietnamese army (ARVN) manage much of the distribution and sale of heroin to GIs inside South Vietnam. But rather than risking exposure by having their own officers handle the more vulnerable aspects of the operation, highranking ARVN commanders generally prefer to work with Cholon's Chinese syndicates. Thus, once bulk heroin shipments are smuggled into the countryeither by the military itself or by Chinese protected by the military-they are usually turned over to Cholon syndicates for packaging and shipment. From Cholon, Chinese and Vietnamese couriers fan out across the country, delivering multikilo lots of heroin to military commanders from the Delta to the DMZ. In three of the four military zones, the local distribution is supervised and protected by high-ranking army officers. (147) In the Mekong Delta (IV Corps) local sales are controlled by colonels loyal to General Quang; in the south central part of the country (II Corps) heroin distribution has become a subject of controversy between two feuding generals loyal to President Thieu, the former II Corps commander Gen. Lu Lan and the present commander Gen. Ngo Dzu; (148) and in northernmost I Corps the traffic is directed by deputies of the corps commander. (149) In June 1971 the chief U.S. police adviser filed a memorandum on Gen. Ngo Dzu's involvement in the heroin trade that describes the relationship between Cholon's Chinese racketeers and Vietnamese generals: (150)


MEMORANDUM FOR RECORD SUBJECT: Alleged Trafficking in Heroin (U)

1. A confidential source has advised this Directorate that the father of General Dzu, MR 2 Commanding General, is trafficking in heroin with Mr. Chanh, an ethnic Chinese from Cholon. (Other identification not available.)

2. General Dzu's father lives in Qui Nhon. Mr. Chanh makes regular trips to Qui Nhon from Saigon usually via Air Vietnam, but sometimes by General Dzu's private aircraft. Mr. Chanh either travels to Qui Nhon alone, or with other ethnic Chinese. Upon his arrival at the Qui Nhon Airport he is met by an escort normally composed of MSS and/or QC's [military police]; Mr. Chanh is then allegedly escorted to General Dzu's father, where he turns over kilogram quantities of heroin for U.S. currency. Mr. Chanh usually spends several days in Qui Nhon, and stays at the Hoa Binh Hotel, Gia Long Street, Qui Nhon. When Chanh returns to Saigon he is allegedly also given an escort from TSN Airport.

3. The National Police in Qui Nhon especially those police assigned to the airport, are reportedly aware of *the activity between General Dzu's father and Mr. Chanh, but are afraid to either report or investigate these alleged violations fearing that they will only be made the scapegoat should they act.

4. Mr. Chanh (AKA: Red Nose) is an ethnic Chinese from Cholon about 40 years of age,

[signed] Michael G. McCann, Director Public Safety Directorate CORDS

After bulk shipments of heroin have been delivered to cities or ARVN bases near U.S. installations it is sold to GIs through a network of civilian pushers (barracks' maids, street vendors, pimps, and street urchins) or by low-ranking ARVN officers. In Saigon and surrounding 11 Corps most of the heroin marketing is managed by ordinary civilian networks, but as GI addicts move away from the capital to the isolated firebases along the Laotian border and the DMZ, the ARVN pushers become more and more predominant. "How do we get the stuff?" said one GI stationed at a desolate firebase near the DMZ, "just go over to the fence and rap with an ARVN. If he's got it you can make a purchase .

Even at Long Binh, the massive U.S. army installation on the outskirts of Saigon, Vietnamese officers work as pushers. As one GI addict based at Long Binh put it, "You can always get some from an ARVN; not a Pfc., but the officers. I've gotten it from as high as Captain." (152)