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Abuse at Vietnam's drug detention centers highlights regional problem

A report by Human Rights Watch accuses Vietnam of imprisoning hundreds of thousands of drug addicts throughout the past decade without due process and subjecting them to forced labor.

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Cashew lovers may be disappointed to hear that the snack could have decidedly distasteful origins.

A new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) accuses Vietnam of imprisoning hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese drug addicts throughout the past decade without due process and forcing them to work long hours in detention centers processing cashew nuts and other items for sale by companies.

The report also documents beatings and torture inside the centers, which increased in number from 56 in 2000 to 123 by early this year. The report puts a spotlight on human rights abuses against drug addicts across Southeast Asia.

“This is an absolutely outrageous example of government-condoned forced labor using one of the most vulnerable and marginalized populations,” says Joe Amon, HRW’s director of health and human rights, in an interview.

In a letter to HRW dated Sept. 5, Vietnam’s Department of Social Ills Prevention’s deputy director, Do Thi Ninh Xuan, denied such abuses, insisting that the compulsory detention of addicts is a “humanitarian measure” aimed at helping them escape drug dependency.

Former detainees who spoke to HRW, however, painted a picture of life in detention as slave laborers, included working 10 hour days, six days a week.

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