Of the 500 inmates involved in the breakout from the center, located around 100 kilometers (62 miles) to the northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, police have identified Vo Dinh Huan, 31, along with two other addicts as the instigators after they were reportedly denied their medication.
It took local police some time to track down all the escapees, some of whom had threatened local people with sticks and machetes to demand money. Others also broke into people's houses and vandalized their property, according to eyewitnesses.
|A file photo taken during one of the rehab breakouts last year in Dong Nai Province
Riots over the following days at the same center and another in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau raised serious concerns about security at the facilities.
To get to the bottom of the situation, VnExpress launched an investigation and found that Vietnam's transition toward harm-reduction programs to treat addicts has been held back by old ideas and methodologies, leaving a crowded, poorly-monitored population of detainees.
Authorities continue to remand drug users for two-year stints in compulsory drug detention centers, where they face a detox program and hard labor, a method that has drawn international criticism for years.
Vietnam developed its approach to addiction based on the presumption that it represents a "social evil" that can be cured with abstinence and re-education.
The international community agrees that’s simply not the case.
“Addiction cannot be treated by force,” Nguyen To Nhu, deputy country director of FHI360, an NGO that works on drug addiction and HIV prevention, told VnExpress International. “It’s a disease that requires lifetime treatment so the patient’s cooperation is key.”
The drug rehabilitation center in Dong Nai is currently home to nearly 1,500 inmates, double its capacity.
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.
Vietnam currently has around 180,000 addicts, many of whom are intravenous drug users.