Forced Labor in Vietnam is Real

Forced labor is a situation wherein a worker is coerced to do hard labor by exerting violence or intimidation, or by more elusive means like accumulated debt, holding of documents or other identity papers or threats of denunciation to immigration bodies in a country.

In Vietnam, there are some 30,000 workers, including women and children, who are being held against their free will in detention centers managed by the state government, forced to work and beaten all for the sake of drug treatment.

Typically, victims of forced labor are alleged drug addicts who are being held for a certain period like two to four years without ever getting a hearing or a trial in any court of law.

Unfortunately for detainees in drug center, they are coerced to work under tough conditions for little or no pay at all doing a range of tiresome tasks such as sewing t-shirts or mosquito nets, painting stone trinkets and cashew processing, often for private companies.

For workers who refuse to do labor, violate rules or simply not accomplishing a daily quota, they reportedly face beating of wooden sticks, electric shocks or solitary confinement.

Apparently, the country’s use of labor force in drug detention centers violates a number of international law such as the ILO Convention 29, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Also, the centers are said to be an ineffective form of drug treatment. Statistics revealed that more than 90 percent of former drug detainees return to drug use shortly upon release.

In 2012, a dozen UN agencies, which include the World Health Organization (WHO), ILO and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), have called for the closure of compulsory drug detention centers, quoting the implementation of forced labor as well as the absence of evidence-based drug treatment.

The products made by the drug detainees as a result of their hard labor have made their way into the global supply chains. In fact, in 2011, Columbia Sportwear claimed that one of its Vietnamese contractors had subcontracted the production of jacket liners to one of the drug detention center in the country.

So far, Vietnam is one of the leading suppliers of cashew nuts in the United States and there were doubts that several portion of the cashews being exported to U.S. are products of the detainees’ hard labor in detention centers.

In a recent report published by the ILRF, entitled as Vietnam’s Forced Labor Centers, at least 15 former drug detainees were interviewed, which eventually created the case for why Vietnam’s drug detention centers should be closed immediately.

Lei Hoang


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