Vietnam’s Problem Importing Lethal Chemicals

While Vietnam’s global trade has been soaring, here’s a product the frontier market country can’t buy on the international market:  chemicals required under its law to execute prisoners.

Overseas producers refuse to export the drugs required to carry out death sentences of about 500 people convicted by Vietnamese courts of drug trafficking, rape, corruption and other crimes.

Vietnam switched to lethal injection for executions two years ago because firing squads were expensive and stressful for executioners.  But after the government installed equipment and trained staff, the country was unable to buy the three-stage drugs from Europe, where export of drugs that could be used for capital punishment is illegal.

Vietnam plans to solve the problem by changing its law to (1) allow for domestic poisons to be used, rather than those stipulated by law, (2) go back to firing squads, and/or (3) reserve the death penalty for only the most serious crimes.

The problem raises the spectre of harsh treatment by an oppressive government, at least from the perspective of some countries — but the US wouldn’t be one of them; the US has about triple the population of Vietnam but seven times as many convicts awaiting executions.  A further grim irony is that Vietnam faces a far bigger problem contending with after-effects of lethal poisons “exported” to their country in the Vietnam War.



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