The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores.

Challenges: The Government of Vietnam is working to institute widespread criminal justice reforms, including a transition from an inquisitorial legal system to a more adversarial system –  a difficult undertaking.  Additionally, the Government of Vietnam is working to improve law enforcement capacity to combat trafficking of drugs, humans, and wildlife, money laundering, crimes against children, domestic violence, cybercrime, and corruption.  With unprecedented levels of trafficking plaguing the region, Vietnam’s rapidly growing economy, development, and infrastructure have also made it easier for criminal entities to thrive, and has increased demand for illegal goods in country.  Vietnam also faces a difficult situation in its territorial waters, with boundary disputes, illegal activity, overfishing, and foreign malign influence overwhelming its maritime law enforcement efforts.  

Goals: INL’s law enforcement programs aim to improve the capacity and professionalism of law enforcement institutions, increase citizen confidence in the rule of law, and strengthen adherence to international policing standards by fostering increased cooperation with U.S. and international law enforcement agencies.  INL’s justice sector programs target Vietnam’s ability to draft legislation, implement its laws in a manner consistent with its international human rights obligations, administer justice based on due process, provide fair and equal access to justice, and develop a more independent, accountable, and transparent legal system.  INL’s maritime law enforcement program seeks to improve the capacity of Vietnamese maritime agencies to detect and disrupt maritime trafficking of people, wildlife, weapons, and other goods; build coordination among Vietnamese agencies and regional partners; and strengthen overall maritime domain awareness.  


  • In May 2016, the United States and Vietnam signed a Letter of Agreement (LOA) intended to expand Vietnamese law enforcement capabilities and strengthen the criminal justice sector’s capability to investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate crimes. Through the LOA, INL has supported a wide range of assistance to Vietnam’s criminal justice and maritime security actors, as well as helping professionalize and modernize investigative and prosecutorial practices.  Some highlights include a significant increase in seizures of drugs and wildlife; arrests and prosecutions of traffickers; and significant revenue denied to transnational criminal organizations.  
  • INL is working with the Supreme People’s Court to increase the pace and scope of judicial and legal reforms, introducing new concepts such as diversion courts, special protections for juveniles, and special considerations for special victims, as well as the exploration of plea bargaining and other adversarial principles into the Vietnamese system.  
  • INL partnered with the Department of Defense to provide significant infrastructure and technical assistance to the Vietnam Coast Guard and related maritime agencies to increase their capacity to enforce Vietnam’s maritime domain, and combat illegal activity in Vietnamese waters.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future