Rehab escapees steal motorbike and threaten locals

By Xuan Thang, Phuoc Tuan, Lam Le   April 15, 2016 | 02:27 am PT
Following their escape from a rehabilitation center on Wednesday, patients have been on the rampage stealing clothes and a motorbike.

On the evening of April 13, over 400 drug users at a rehabilitation center in Ba Ria - Vung Tau in southern Vietnam escaped following a fight.

Tens of doors and other property at the center such as walkie talkies, stun guns, computer screens and locks were destroyed by the patients. The guards used up all 20 cans of pepper spray and five fire extinguishers in their efforts to stop the patients.

“The crowd shouted and made three big holes in the wall to escape. One officer who was hit on the head by a rock had to be taken to hospital. We’ve had cases of patients escaping before but never on such a scale as last night,” said one of the center’s officers.

Some patients have broken into people’s houses to steal clothes and other personal belongings.

“When I heard the screams, I looked out and saw tens of young people in shorts and white t-shirts prancing around. Some of them climbed over walls into houses to steal clothes that were drying,” said Le Thi Tam, a local witness.


Le Tri recalls the moment his motorbike was stolen. Photo by Xuan Thang

Security guard Le Tri said that around 9pm, when he heard people were climbing over the wall to enter the company premises where he worked, he got on his motorbike to stop them. As he arrived, three people threatened him with knives and demanded his motorbike. Scared for his life, he gave them his VND6 million ($269) motorbike.

“They escaped on my motorbike. I ran after them holding a rock but there was nobody around to help me so I had to accept it,” Tri said.

Tran Thien Chi, director of the Labor Education and Vocational Training Center in question, said that as soon as he was notified of the escape, the center mobilized security guards and police, but everything happened too fast.


Many police officers were mobilized to find the escapees. Photo by Phuoc Tuan

According to Chi, most of the escapees were new patients admitted for the first time so they were in an unstable condition. The security guards were outnumbered by the huge number of patients.

Police and locals have caught nearly 150 of the 447 patients who escaped. “We didn’t resort to force but called their families to convince them to return to the center,” said Chi.

In the morning following the escape, Vice Chairman of Ba Ria Vung Tau People’s Committee Le Tuan Quoc asked provincial police to coordinate with the local army to patrol areas where the patients are likely to be hiding out.

“After the issue is resolved, we’ll hold a meeting to clarify the lines of responsibility in order to come up with a solution," said Quoc.

The Labor Education and Vocational Training Center in Ba Ria – Vung Tau houses over 600 patients. It is protected by two rows of 3 meter high walls covered in zinc. On the outside, it is surrounded by two 1.5 meter barbed wire fences.

Apart from treatment for their addictions, patients take lessons on life, law and social behavior. Patients who are healthy enough also participate in vocational, craft and basic ICT classes. 

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