Hundreds of Vietnamese drug addicts are on the run after escaping from a rehabilitation centre where many were held for compulsory treatment. Detainees attacked guards, broke down the main gate and scaled walls at the centre in the country’s southern province of Ba Ria Vung Tau. “We have brought 150 patients back, while search efforts are under way for nearly 300 others,” said Le Thi Trang Dai, director of the provincial labour department.

The escapees have been begging for clothes from local residents and trying to hitchhike out of the area, the state-run VN Express newspaper said. “Others have escaped into (a) nearby deep forest,” the report added. There are 140,000 estimated drug addicts in Vietnam, where the communist government enforces a compulsory treatment programme for them. Addicts can also voluntarily enter the centres for treatment.

The escapees were a mix of compulsory and volunteer admissions, Ms Dai said. She added that local authorities are urging families to bring back runaway patients so they can complete their treatment. “Police are also investigating the reasons behind the escape, trying to understand if there is a leader behind the incident,” she said.