Ho Chi Minh City authorities are seeking sanction from the central government to send drug addicts straight to rehabilitation centers without going through a complicated process that is in place but has been criticized as inefficient.
Starting this year drug offenders can be sent to rehabilitation centers only if they relapse after completing community rehabilitation.
The power to send them to rehab has, however, been taken away from local people's committees and vested in district courts. But judges plead ignorance of the new regulations and say they cannot enforce them without proper guidance, which has yet to be issued.
“City authorities will carry it out immediately if the central government agrees,” deputy mayor Hua Ngoc Thuan told city lawmakers at a recent meeting with reference to the compulsory rehab.
“Regulations should be amended soon and before Tet (Lunar New Year) because the city will host the 40th anniversary of Reunification Day (April 30).”
Government statistics show there are more than 204,000 drug addicts in the country, with 27-30 percent of them having criminal records.
Thuan said drugs are a major concern about which the city “cannot do anything” because drug users only face compulsory rehab after one year of ineffective community rehabilitation.
“The city is a major hub of drug addicts. You can see them challenging the police because they will file a lawsuit if detained.
“While waiting for relevant agencies to issue more documents on compulsory rehabilitation process, the city only asks for one thing – a taskforce to take drug addicts to centers immediately.”
Last month the Ministry of Public security reported that only 33 of the nation's 204,377 drug addicts were sent to rehab between January and July.
Ineffective community rehabilitation
Thuan’s demand follows the increasing incidence of crimes committed by drug users with community rehabilitation yielding little result.
HCMC police estimate that around 500 drug-addicted gangsters are threatening public security. A total of 4,668 crimes this year have resulted in 65 deaths and 572 injuries.
The city Drug Rehabilitation Consulting Center held a conference on October 17 to review the community drug rehabilitation program that began in 2012.
The center reported that only 563 people came to the center to inquire about the program and 204 were treated. But a mere 2.8 percent completed the longer, three-month course of treatment. Most chose 1-90 days of rehabilitation with only around half going lasting the course, mostly because they did not come to the center voluntarily as required under the program, but were instead forced by their families.
Nguyen Van Minh, deputy director of the HCMC Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, said the center should refuse non-voluntary cases because the program is voluntary.
Minh said the program also provides healthcare, supports and finding jobs for rehabilitated drug users.
“But it has not been effective. Drug users only get medicines and counseling at the center. After returning to the community, they can easily relapse,” he said.