( dpa ) - Coastal police this weekend seized more than two tons of smuggled Chinese firecrackers, officials said Monday, as Vietnamese citizens continued to circumvent a national ban on fireworks imposed over a decade ago.
A Coast Guard patrol found the firecrackers on board a boat it intercepted Saturday en route from China to Vietnam's north-eastern Quang Ninh province, said Nguyen The Hung, a police official in Quang Ninh. The boat's captain and two other sailors were arrested.
Vietnam's most important holiday, Tet, which falls on February 7 this year, has traditionally been greeted by families setting off firecrackers at home and in the streets.
In 1995, the communist government banned private firecrackers, citing the dozens killed by them at Tet each year. Since then, police have launched a new Tet tradition: annual crackdowns to try to stop people from buying firecrackers.
Hung said police in Quang Ninh alone have arrested 154 people for firecracker smuggling since August last year, seizing some 18 tons of firecrackers.
In the neighbouring province of Lang Son, meanwhile, which shares a long mountain border with China, police have seized more than 2 tons of smuggled firecrackers in recent months.
Trieu Van Do, head of the Lang Son police force's Department of Social Order Management, said the actual quantity of firecrackers smuggled into Vietnam was probably much higher than the amounts seized by police.
"It's hard to stop the smugglers," Do said. "People in Vietnam still like firecrackers."