Recent protests and violence at mandatory “drug rehabilitation” centres in Vietnam highlight the importance of the government’s decision to transform such facilities into community-based voluntary centres.

18 Jan 2017

In November 2016, detainees at Vietnamese mandatory drug centres "pelted guards with rocks before smashing a brick wall and escaping" from a mandatory centre, VnExpress reports. This was followed four days later by 200 detainees breaking the walls of another such centre.

In recent years, there have been numerous examples of people detained in mandatory centres staging protests and breakouts, which in turn have occasionally led to violent clashes with law enforcement.

Fortunately for those interned in these facilities, the Vietnamese government announced in August that 52 of the country’s 123 state-run mandatory centres would exclusively offer voluntary services by 2020. The number of people held in mandatory facilities will be reduced from 67,000 to 20,000 during the same time period, authorities said.

Vietnam -drug -centres

The government hasn’t clarified what services will be offered in the newly-voluntary centres, but existing voluntary centres in Vietnam provide clients with individual consultations, methadone programmes, and other forms of opioid substitution therapy. Other harm reduction services are also offered in the country – for example, non-government organisations distribute sterile needles to people who inject drugs.

The gradual closure of mandatory centres appears to be part of an ideological shift among authorities.

Nguyen Trong Dam, the Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs, told a conference in November that the government intends “to use many different methods of drug addiction treatment, but [is] aiming toward voluntary treatment”.

This marks a significant step towards improved human rights in a country where harms of drug use are rife, and treatment facilities have been sharply criticised for their repressive approaches.

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