The defendants were found guilty of trafficking more than 628 kilograms of heroin and 1,400 synthetic drug tablets from the northern provinces of Son La and Hoa Binh to Hanoi and surrounding provinces between 2004 and 2009.

They were convicted by the People's Court of Hoa Binh Province of drug smuggling, resisting officers in discharge of duty, illegal possession of military weapons, and harboring and concealing fugitives.

Kingpin Trang A Chu, 37, was among seven people who received death sentences at the trial, which began in May 20. Chu was arrested in May 2011 when he was traffiking 17.6 kilograms of heroin and 400 synthetic drug tablets from Son La Province to Hanoi. Chu's car was flagged down by traffic police in Hoa Binh’s Tan Lac District. He pretended to follow the officer's orders by slowing down and engaging his turn signal, before suddenly speeding up in an attempt to flee.

Police positioned down the road managed to flatten his car’s wheel with spike-strips. The man continued to drive on flat tires for some 300 meters before crashing into three police cars in an attempted suicide. One officer died at the scene, and another was injured, according to prosecutors.

Further investigation led police to arrest other members of Chu’s gang, including a tax official in nearby Cao Bang Province, but four suspects are still at large. Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws. Those convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine face the death penalty.

The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is also punishable by death.

In January, a court in the northern province of Quang Ninh handed down death sentences to 30 out of 89 defendants in one of Vietnam's largest drug trafficking ever. The defendants brought a total of over 1.47 tons of heroin, 35 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, and over 323,400 methamphetamine tablets from Laos to Vietnam and from Vietnam to China between 2006 and 2012.

Thanh Nien News - June 6, 2014

Vietnam sentences six heroin traffickers to death

Vietnam on Friday sentenced six members of a smuggling gang to death for trafficking heroin and the party drug ecstasy, state media said.

The two-week trial ended in northern Hoa Binh province Friday with the 25 defendants all found guilty of moving some 620 kilograms (1,400 pounds) of heroin and 1,400 ecstasy pills between Hanoi and Vietnam's northern provinces.

Seven defendants were sentenced to life in prison, while 12 more were jailed for between 12 and 20 years on the same charge, according to the official Vietnam News Agency.

Communist Vietnam has some of the world's toughest anti-drug laws. Anyone found guilty of possessing more than 600 grams (21 ounces) of heroin, or more than 20 kilograms of opium, can face the death penalty.

Convictions and sentences are usually revealed only by local media, which is strictly under state control.

The "Golden Triangle" region covering part of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand was once the world's top source of opium but has been overtaken by Afghanistan.

In January, authorities sentenced 30 drug smugglers to death in Vietnam's largest ever narcotics case, involving scores of defendants and nearly two tonnes of heroin.

According to media reports and an AFP tally, Vietnam currently has more than 700 prisoners on death row.

Many have been sentenced for drug offences including dozens of foreigners -- although it has been decades since a foreign citizen was executed.

After a two-year hiatus in carrying out capital punishment due to problems procuring chemicals for lethal injections, Vietnam executed its first prisoner by the method last August.

Due to problems with both procuring and producing domestically the chemicals required for lethal injections, some lawmakers have called for a return to executions by firing squad.

Agence France Presse - June 6, 2014