Tension at Vietnam's drug rehab center caused by overcrowding: official

By Phuoc Tuan   November 7, 2016 | 08:06 pm PT
Tension at Vietnam's drug rehab center caused by overcrowding: official
Many inmates protest and demand to leave a drug rehab center in Dong Nai Province on Monday. Photo by VnExpress/Phuoc Tuan
Since 2009 there've been four breakouts at the center, which has 1,500 inmates despite its capacity for only 800.

As tension at a drug rehab center in southern Vietnam appeared to cool down after a breakout and a protest that began on Sunday, a government official conceded that the facility was "heavily overloaded" and that its inmates were unhappy. 

“No one would be able to bear overcrowding,” Dung said. “They can absolutely feel angry and want to break out,” said Dao Ngoc Dung, Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, who visited Xuan Phu center in Dong Nai Province on Monday.

Hours before the minister arrived, hundreds of inmates were still protesting after 166 of them escaped the previous day. Around 50 are still at large. Three inmates believed to lead the protest have been arrested by the police.

Dung said the center has been deteriorating and is badly strained.

The center, around 100 kilometers from HCMC, was opened in 2009 and meant to serve only 800 inmates. It now has nearly 1,500.

One inmate told Dung during the visit that they want proper investment into the center’s facilities. “We want better medical treatment, so we can go home early.”

Vietnam has 132 rehab centers across the country. The three largest cities Da Nang, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have reported no escape. Hai Phong City and Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province each has reported one breakout.

There are around 220,000 drug users in the official records.

Since 2009, the center in Dong Nai has reported four breakouts. The biggest one happened on October 23, when more than 500 inmates escape.

The center of nearly five hectares (12.4 acres) has 110 staff members and 44 guards.

Dong Nai's government will spend VND18 billion ($806,000) building new rooms at the center. “But the construction will take time,” the province’s vice chairwoman Nguyen Hoa Hiep said.

Dung, the social affairs minister, suggested that the center does not have adequate and professional staff, and may have taken in drug users who do not need compulsory rehabilitation.

“We should review all the inmates. Those who use drugs but don't have an addiction should be released. Addicts who have a family willing to help them should be sent home,” he said.

Bui Si Loi, vice chairman of the Social Affairs Committee at the National Assembly, Vietnam’s top legislative body, said tension at the Dong Nai center should prompt the authorities to improve conditions at drug rehab facilities, so the inmates do not feel like they are being held in captive.

Loi said that drug rehabilitation programs will have to be more successful in the long term if there are more efforts from the inmates’ families and the inmates themselves.

He said families should be the first providers of help and support and a rehab center is only the final solution.

Related news:

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Over 100 drug addicts escape rehab center in southern Vietnam, again

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