Nearly 600 drug addicts escape from rehabilitation center in northern Vietnam

Sunday, May 16, 2010

578 addicts escape from rehab center in Vietnam

HANOI, Vietnam — Nearly 600 inmates in a Vietnamese drug rehabilitation camp overpowered security guards and escaped, an official said Monday. At least two-thirds of them were still at large.

Trinh Vuong Thuan, a security official at the rehabilitation center No. 2 in the northern port city of Haiphong, said 578 inmates overpowered security guards to break through the center’s gates on Sunday.

Vietnam’s strict laws on drugs allow the government to order addicts held for up to two years in rehabilitation centers, many of them boot-camp-style camps that include hard labor and communist “ideological education.”

The uprising and escape started when an inmate called on others to flee while they were having dinner, he said.

“We were completely overwhelmed,” Thuan said. “Forty of us were not able to prevent them, many with canes and bricks, from escaping.”

Thuan said the inmates smashed the windshields of several cars, including a police car, along their way to nearby Kien An District.

Some 120 inmates returned to the center later Sunday night while three others were recaptured Monday morning. Police are looking for others who are still at large.

The center, which was opened more than a year ago, houses 826 male addicts to heroin or other substances.

Several large escapes have been reported in recent years following a government order to increase the period of mandatory rehab treatment from one to two years.

Vietnam says are more than 140,000 addicts in the country, many of them intravenous drug users.

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