More than 300 inmates at a drug rehabilitation center in Hai Phong City struck down its gates and escaped Sunday, local authorities said. Photo: Le Tan
Authorities in the northern city of Hai Phong have officially confirmed that more than 300 inmates were incited to break down the gate of a local drug rehabilitation center and escape on Sunday.
Pham Huu Thu, a spokesman for the municipal People’s Committee - the city administration -- held a press briefing on Sunday evening and said local police had successfully recaptured the fugitives and returned them to the rehab center safe and sound, news website VnExpress (vnexpress.net) reported.
At around 4 p.m., hundreds of inmates at the Gia Minh Rehabilitation Center in Thuy Nguyen District broke through the center’s gate and headed for the city center.
Lines of inmates, many of them shirtless, walked through the streets. Several vandalized people’s homes as they made their way toward downtown Hai Phong.
Household businesses were asked to shut their doors for safety reasons.
The inmates being escorted by local police officers back to the Gia Minh Center in Hai Phong.
Local police assigned officers to checkpoints throughout the city to control the fugitives.
At around 6:30 p.m., several inmates returned to the center. Many others were taken home by their family members. Some 100 continued toward the city center.
The inmates successfully crossed a bridge into downtown Hai Phong at around 8 p.m.
Once there, a phalanx of local police stopped them and persuaded them to disperse.
Thu, the spokesman, said some inmates at the Gia Minh Center recently instigated a group of post-rehab inmates to rise up against center’s officers and escape.
"Post-rehab" inmates is a term that refers to patients who have completed the rehabilitation portion of their treatment but are kept on to work in the centers for 1-2 years. They generally must work under the center's labor programs and are supposed to be paid for any extra hours.
According to the center’s director Nguyen Quang Toan, there are more than 600 inmates in the center--40 percent of whom are HIV infected and 70 percent have previous criminal convictions.
Most of the 300 inmates who escaped are post-rehab inmates.
Toan said many inmates grew angry after learning that they would have to submit to a mandatory four-year rehab program -- rather than the two years they'd been initially sentenced to.
Toan said the doubling of their treatment followed a government decree that came into effect last year and denied rumors that the Gia Minh inmates were being forced to toil under harsh conditions, adding that the center recently began working with local businesses to create jobs for post-rehab inmates.
Le Khac Nam, Hai Phong's vice mayor, said local police are persuading the inmates’ families to bring them back to the center to continue their treatment.
The police are still investigating the extremists who instigated the escape.
Several large escapes have been reported across Vietnam in recent years following a government order to increase the period of mandatory rehab treatment from one to two years.
By the end of June, Vietnam has around 183,000 addicts, many of them intravenous drug users