119 inmates escape drug rehab facility in southern Vietnam

By Hoang Nam   November 20, 2019 | 10:57 pm PT
119 inmates escape drug rehab facility in southern Vietnam
Two inmates of a drug rehab center in Tien Giang Province are caught by police after escaping on November 20, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam.
119 addicts broke out of a drug rehabilitation center in Tien Giang Province Wednesday. Police have caught and returned about half of them.

Around 10 a.m., the inmates smashed through doors and overpowered guards to escape from the drug rehab center in Chau Thanh District, home to 650 addicts.

Dozens took off their uniform and broke into nearby homes to steal two motorbikes. They headed towards National Highway 1A carrying four to five people on each motorbike. Along the way, the group also stopped by a stall selling clothes and took away many coats.

Some others jogged on the HCMC-Trung Luong expressway that runs to HCMC.

Hundreds of police officers blocked main roads to capture the fleeing addicts. By Wednesday afternoon, 55 were taken back to the center and the search for others continues.

Inmates of a Tien Giang drug rehab center steal motorbikes from local residents.

In August last year, around 200 drug users staged a massive breakout to flee from the same rehab center. Many inmates said they were treated harshly, being are forced to kneel for hours, and thrashed when their backs slumped.

Vietnam has 132 rehab centers, and there are around 220,000 drug addicts on official records.

Vietnam treats drug addiction as a "social evil" that can be cured with abstinence and re-education.

Following international criticism, the government established a timeframe in 2013 to gradually replace compulsory detention centers with community-based, voluntary treatment regimens.

The transition, however, has proven tricky given inconsistencies in the legal system, the widely-held belief that drug addiction stems from moral failure, and the lack of competent doctors, therapists and equipment.

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