Vietnam denies use of forced labor at rehab centers

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Vietnam on Thursday refuted a report by Human Rights Watch that local drug addicts were forced to work long hours in detention centers, calling the report "groundless."

Compulsory drug rehabilitation in Vietnam is "humane, effective and beneficial" for drug users, the community and the society," foreign ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said.

She said placing drug addicts and sex workers in rehabilitation centers reflects the country's "supportive social policies."

She said Vietnam's policies in such matters are in line with those suggested by the World Health Organization, the National Institute on Drugs Abuse under the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes.

The rehabilitation centers are one facet of Vietnam's ongoing campaign against drug abuse, prostitution and other social ills, she said.

About 309,000 drug users nationwide passed through the centers from 2000 to 2010, with the number of facilities more than doubling "” from 56 to 123, the HRW report said, citing government figures.

Most detainees are young male heroin users, the report said. Some are rounded up by the police while others are sent to the centers by family members.

The World Bank funded an HIV/AIDS prevention program in 20 drug rehabilitation centers across Vietnam that ended last year.

"We have not received any reports of human rights violations in the drug rehabilitation clinics supported by the project," the Associated Press quoted Victoria Kwakwa, World Bank's Vietnam country director as saying. "If we had, we would have conducted a supervision mission to ensure bank policies were met and concerns fully examined."

According to the AP report, Vietnam says there are 138,000 drug addicts in the country and 30 percent them are HIV positive, down from 60 percent in 2006.

The US last year provided $7.7 million for methadone treatment and community-based drug intervention programs, AP quoted the US Embassy website as saying. Injecting drug users are a driving force behind HIV infections across Vietnam.

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