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Vietnam Rehab Centers Nothing More than Forced Labor Camps?

Government funded rehab centers in Vietnam have now been claimed to be nothing more than forced labor camps. A new report was released by the Human Rights Watch entitled The Rehab Archipelago: Forced Labor and Other Abuses in Drug Detention Centers in South Vietnam. This report indicated that government run “rehabilitation centers” often double as forced-labor camps where the “patients” process cashew nuts and manufacture other exports in Southern Vietnam.

Nguyen Van Minh, head of the Department of Social Evils Prevention under the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, claims that the labor helps distract them from their addiction while teaching them new skills to help integrate the patients into society after rehabilitation.

The Vietnamese government has the power to keep addicts in camps for up to 4 years. There are currently 123 forced labor camps in Vietnam with more than 40,000 ‘patients’ inside.(1) The camps have walls and guards in order to prevent anyone from leaving.

Most patients engage in labor therapy where they will most commonly be sewing garments, making bricks or process cashew nuts. For this work they are rarely paid, if paid the money is often taken as payment for room, food and management fees. If any patient breaks the rules they are often shocked with electric batons, denied food or water, routinely beaten and/or locked away in isolation rooms. In essence they are tortured.

Women and children are found in these facilities however the majority are young males combating heroin addiction. Rarely do any patients ever receive any proper medical treatment such as receiving substitution therapy with methadone (recognized as one of the most effective ways of treating heroin addiction). Government figures indicate that relapse rate in the camps is “officially between 70% and 80%, but most regard 95% as being closer to the real situation.” (1) Some say this high relapse rate is because the camps are more concentrated on profit than treatment results.

The camps have involvement from international donor and non-governmental organizations that work inside the camps and visit on a regular basis. Most do not agree with the way the camps are run but do not know how to deal with the situation.

The Vietnamese has used donor involvement in the camps to legitimize the centers. Not only this but both the United States of America and the United Nations have funded training and trained the addiction counselors at the Vietnamese centers. The United States Agency for International Development included the point in the training of counselors that “treatment does not have to be voluntary to be effective” Because off all this the Vietnamese government claimed that the system is “in line with the principles of effective drug addiction treatment released by the (U.S.) National Institute on Drug Abuse and agreed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.” (2)

This claim is not true whatsoever; the methods of torture or forced labor are not recognized as methods of effective addiction treatment in any of the aforementioned organizations.

Since the year 2000 the number of camps has almost doubled from 56 to 123. In that time it is estimated that around 300,000 people passed through the centers. (3) The Human Rights Watch director, Joe Amon, is taking the current issue seriously. Amon says, “This is not drug treatment, the centers should be closed and these people should be released.” (4)


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