Help or hell?
In a report released last week, Human Rights Watch accuses a Vientiane drug rehabilitation centre supported by the US embassy and UN agencies of abuses and arbitrary detention. And advocates say it's a model that is gaining popularity throughout the region
An April, 2009, report by a UN-affiliated news agency portrays the Somsanga Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre in Vientiane as a refuge for methamphetamine addicts _ a place outside Laos' harsh penal system where they could get clean and learn skills to build new lives. Sports, films and a gym were available at the facility, said the report by the UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks. "Vocational training not only entertains patients," it said, "but provides them with confidence and skills for their return to the outside world." The report was optimistic about the potential of taking the "Somsanga approach" nationwide.
ROUNDED UP: A guard lectures detainees at the Somsanga Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre. A report released by Human Rights Watch last week says that the bleak conditions at the centre keep detainees from benefiting from vocational programmes.PHOTO: ARANTXA CEDILLO
Last week, a damning report released by the US-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) challenged that image of Somsanga. Based on interviews with 12 people formerly held at the facility, the report paints a picture of a primitive compound surrounded by barbed wire where people are crammed into locked cells, subjected to physical abuse and held without due process for months or even years.
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