Abstract – Compulsory drug detention centers in China, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos: Health and human rights abuses

Joseph J. Amon, Richard Pearshouse, Jane Cohen, Rebecca Schleifer

Health and Human Rights 2013, 15/2


Background: According to official accounts, in 2012 more than 235,000 people were detained in over 1,000 compulsory drug detention centers in East and Southeast Asia.

Methods: Between July 2007 and May 2013, in-depth interviews were conducted with 195 individuals recently released from drug detention centers in China, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos.

Results: Individuals reported being held for up to five years in drug detention centers without clinical determination of drug dependency or due process, and being denied evidence-based drug treatment as well as other basic health services. Many individuals reported being forced to perform arduous physical exercise or military-style drills. Forced labor was reported by all individuals having been detained in Vietnam, and some held in Cambodia and China. Physical—and less often, sexual—abuse was reported among those held in each country.

Conclusions: Long-term, compulsory detention for treatment of drug dependency is counter to established principles of medical care and violates a wide range of human rights, including the right to health. Individuals held in drug detention centers in China, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos are subject to torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.