Vietnam allowing forced labor and denial of treatment in drug rehabilitation centers

 By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch, Asia

HANOI, Vietnam – Those detained in Vietnam for drug use are being held without due process, forced to labor without compensation and enduring physical violence according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

Vietnamese drug users are forced to labor while being detained in drug rehabilitation centers (Photo Courtesy of Human Rights Watch).
Vietnamese drug users are forced to labor while being detained in drug rehabilitation centers (Photo Courtesy of Human Rights Watch).

According to the report, “The Rehab Archipelago: Forced Labor and Other Abuses in Drug Detention Centers in Southern Vietnam,”  drug detention centers that are mandated to treat and rehabilitate drug users are being used as labor camps where those arrested for drug use are forced to work six days a week to sew garments, manufacture products and process cashews.

Those who are compensated receive only a few dollars a month, much of which is taken by the facility to pay for food and shelter, and are forced to work in unhealthy conditions.

The individuals interviewed by Human Rights Watch stated that they were not given a trial or informed of any process of appeal. Individuals who voluntarily entered the facility were not allowed to leave and had their detention arbitrarily extended by management officials at the center.

Punishment at the facility is severe and often involves torture. Those who refuse to work are beaten with batons, electrically shocked, kept in isolation, forced to work longer hours and deprived of food and water.

There have been several large escapes since the Vietnamese government issued an order increasing the mandatory period of treatment from one year to two years and the maximum period of treatment increased from one year to four years.

A former detainee described the punishment he was forced to endure after trying to escape: “First they beat my legs so that I couldn’t run off again… [Then] they shocked me with an electric baton [and] kept me in the punishment room for a month.”

Cashews are the most common product derived from forced labor in drug rehabilitation camps which contributes to Vietnam’s status as the largest cashew producer in the world.  Vietnam is the largest supplier of Cashew’s to the United States and is a large supplier of the nut to China and the European Union.

Human Rights Watch is calling the U.S. and Australian governments, the United Nations, the World Bank and other internationally donors to validate the facilities they are funding to avoid “indirectly [facilitating] human rights abuses.”

Last year the United States donated $7.7 million to Vietnam for methadone treatment and community based drug intervention. None of the individuals interviewed by Human Rights Watch; however, had received methadone or any other medical tool for fighting addiction.

As a result of the report Columbia Sportswear, located in Oregon, ended its relationship with a Vietnamese factory after it was discovered that the factory had subcontracted work with a drug detention center.

The drug use centers are a component of a Vietnamese system aimed at eliminating “social evils” including prostitution and drug use. As of early 2011, there were 123 centers across Vietnam which housed approximately 40,000 individuals.

Although Vietnamese officials claim that labor helps drug addicts by keeping them away from temptations, the official relapse rate of those who leave the camps is between 70 percent and 80 percent although most believe that the actually rate is closer to 95 percent.

For more information, please see:

Voice of America – Vietnam’s Drug Rehab Centers Under Fire – 9 September 2011

Associated Press – Rights Group: Forced Labor in Vietnam Drug Centers – 7 September 2011

Human Rights Watch –Vietnam: Torture, Forced Labor in Drug Detention – 7 September 2011

Radio Free Asia –Drug Detention Akin to ‘Labor Camps’ – 6 September 2011

Time – From Vietnam’s Forced-Labor Camps: ‘Blood Cashews’ – 6 September 2011

Author: Impunity Watch Archive

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