The 10-km section of National Highway 1A in Ho Chi Minh City has long been a destination of addicts, many of them truck drivers commuting on the road, when they fall in their regular fits of drug use.
It is likened as the ‘heaven of drugs’, stretching from the An Suong intersection to Ga intersection in District 12, because local police have failed to remove the market in recent years, and also to conduct a survey about the link between reckless driving by drivers in their bouts of addiction and the road toll on the section.
In reality, thousands of addicts from distant localities stop somewhere along the road section to get drugs from vendors every day.
Penetrating ‘the market’
On a day late last month, an addict named Xoan from the neighboring province of Binh Duong stopped by the An Suong intersection. When he saw a man riding an out-of-date Honda motorbike close behind, Xoan made a ‘signal’ by nodding.
The man curtly asked, “Half or a full box?” ‘Box’ here refers to the weight of drugs that can be consumed two to six times depending on its pure quality. After that, Xoan was taken by the man deep into a narrow alley running from the highway to a deserted piece of land.
He switched off the bike and rolled up Xoan’s sleeve to ensure that the client was not a ‘cheo’ – a slang word drugs sellers use to refer to cops. After seeing numerous traces of injection left on the veins of Xoan’s hands, he pulled out a Jet cigarette packet full of drugs.
The seller is Hung, an addict and seller in the area. Every night, he rides his bike to District 8 to get ‘the goods’ and distributes them in stores at An Suong. Many years ago, Hung publicly sold drugs to buyers on the pavement of the highway before local police conducted a raid, after which he withdrew into the alleys.
To escape police tracking, drug dealers ‘invented’ a kind of ‘throwing sale’. After receiving signals from clients such as a nod or a scratch on the hand or head, Hung comes and tells his client a place to meet and takes money.
He then rushes to the site, throws down the pack of drugs, and leaves.
This method is meant to help dealers avoid being caught red handed by police.
At the An Suong ‘market’, a box is priced at VND3.5 million (US$168), and half a box VND1.9 million ($91). If someone doesn’t have much money, an addict can buy a dose from VND80,000 – 120,000 ($3.8 – 5.7), which is enough for injecting once.
Another drug seller, Quang, said many dealers cling to the area but they only give ‘the goods’ to the right men -- or those who make the right signal. Strangers will never be able to get drugs there.
Hung is riding to distribute drugs in an alley in An Suong area (Photo: Tuoi Tre)
A drug tycoon
All addicts and retailers in the An Suong area know Minh ‘ke’ -- a tycoon. He is 30 years old and permanently resides in Dong Lan Hamlet in Ba Diem Commune of the city’s Hoc Mon District. He is a bearded man and has two big tatoos on his hand and back, and usually drives a Honda Dream motorbike.
He is a favorite contact of addicts as his products are of good quality. An addict said a small box from Minh ‘ke’ worth 200,000 dongs ($9.6) is enough for six doses, while a similar amount sold by others is good for only two.
“With me, don’t worry about my products running out. I can give you as many you ask, with just the right amount of money,” said Minh ‘ke’.
A policeman in Ba Diem Commune, one of four localities bordering the An Suong intersection, revealed that drug sellers in the area even hide heroine in beverage-drinking straws and scatter them around at their appointed sites.
Needles for drug injections are numerous in local alleys, he admitted, adding that local police have made many raids, but ‘the market’ does exist.
Drugs are contained in a Jet cigarette packet (Photo: Tuoi Tre)