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Manhunt for drug users escaped from Vietnam rehab

Police and families were searching for nearly 100 addicts who broke out of a rehab center in the southern city of Soc Trang
A motorcyclist riding past a poster advising drug addicts to use methadone instead of used needles to inject cocaine which plays a role in the spread of HIV/AIDS, on a road in Dong Hoi city, central coastal province of Quang Binh.

A motorcyclist riding past a poster advising drug addicts to use methadone instead of used needles to inject cocaine which plays a role in the spread of HIV/AIDS, on a road in Dong Hoi city, central coastal province of Quang Binh. (Photo: AFP)

Published: February 27, 2024 05:05 AM GMT
Updated: February 27, 2024 05:09 AM GMT

Authorities in Vietnam are searching for nearly 100 drug users who escaped from an overcrowded state-owned rehabilitation center in the Mekong Delta, state media said Monday.

Vietnam has more than 30,000 drug addicts undergoing compulsory treatment at government facilities, some forced by law to spend up to two years inside.

Most detainees undergo cold-turkey treatment in overloaded centers and have in the past been subjected to solitary confinement if they break the rules.

Following an "internal dispute" on Saturday night, 191 addicts broke out of a rehab center in the southern city of Soc Trang, reported Cong An Nhan Dan newspaper, the official police mouthpiece.

By Monday morning, 94 had been found and brought back. Police and families were searching for nearly 100 others still on the run, the paper said.

The addicts reportedly broke down the doors of their dormitory and escaped the center via the main entrance and by jumping over the building's iron fences.

Some detainees fled through a hole they had bored in one of the facility's walls.

Several security guards were wounded after being attacked by the fugitives, the report added.

The center's infrastructure was poor, state media said, citing local officials.

It was also overcrowded, with just 60 guards in charge of the more than 460 drug addicts, mostly men.

Local officials refused to provide further details of the escape when contacted by AFP.

While Vietnam is experimenting with more community-based treatment options in response to criticism over its rehab centers, they remain the most-used form of recovery.

The centers are widely supported both by the government and the public as a viable treatment option although addiction specialists say they don't work and relapse rates are high.

According to the ministry of labor, invalids and social affairs, "more than half of these facilities do not have adequate infrastructure and equipment".

Around 200 drug users escaped in 2018 from a rehab center in the southern province of Tien Giang.

A year earlier, 100 people escaped from a center in nearby Long An province because they were upset about spending the annual Tet new year holiday away from their homes.

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