Addicts clash with police at Vietnam rehab centre

AFP , Monday 7 Nov 2016

Police fired tear gas at dozens of drug addicts trying to escape from a compulsory rehab centre in Vietnam Monday, just weeks after a mass breakout from the same facility.

Drug addicts in communist Vietnam are forced to undergo up to two years of rehabilitation in treatment centres across the country, but rights groups have complained of poor conditions and overcrowding.

Images in local media showed lines of officers dressed in riot gear at the Dong Nai facility in southern Vietnam, as addicts clawed at the fence while others scaled the roof of the building.

Some addicts lobbed slippers, plastic chairs and bicycles at officers and police could be seen tossing tear gas canisters into the compound.

At one point, a large group of addicts could be seen rushing toward police who ran away.

"It was a big mess," a police officer told AFP after the clashes which followed protests at the centre Sunday.

"A lot of police were mobilised to get the situation under control," he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

At least 100 addicts have managed to escape the centre since Sunday, according to state-run VNExpress, adding that several have been caught and arrested.

The policeman told AFP that the situation was under control by Monday afternoon but that several dozen men were still on the loose.

The rehab centre in Dong Nai holds up to 1,500 people, or double its capacity, according to local media reports.

"I have a family but I was forced to be here. We want to get out," VNExpress quoted an addict as saying Monday.

Two weeks ago, more than 500 addicts broke out of the same centre, flooding onto nearby roads and sparking panic among local residents.

There are more than 200,000 addicts in Vietnam, with heroin being the main drug of choice, and almost 13,000 people are in treatment centres, according to official figures.

Drug addicts can also undergo voluntary treatment at both state-owned and private establishments.

Human Rights Watch has denounced the conditions in Vietnam's rehab centres and a UN expert has recommended they be closed.

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