Viet camp riots spark 'isolation' units move

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 June, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 June, 1996, 12:00am

In a bid to curb violence, top security isolation buildings to hold troublemakers will be erected at two Vietnamese detention centres.

In a major departure from the traditional community style camp setting, Correctional Services Department (CSD) officials are finalising plans to install 'riot-proof' brick buildings at High Island and Whitehead detention centres.

Metal fittings, which have previously been ripped out of conventional camp huts and modified into weapons, will be replaced with plastic in the new buildings, a move triggered by the Whitehead riots last month in which more than 100 people escaped.

'We are trying to find a way to separate the non-violent from the violent,' said a CSD source.

'We will have to watch the situation to weed out those potential troublemakers and those known to have attempted escape.' A CSD spokesman declined to comment on camp security matters.

The units are each expected to accommodate about 400 Vietnamese, although bedspace could be doubled with the use of bunks. Unlike the existing huts, cooking will be forbidden in the new units and food will be brought in by a team of officers.

Security officials are said to be eager to have the structures in place before September when both camps expect an influx of migrants from the third main detention centre on Tai A Chau, near Lantau, which will be closed.

They hope detaining troublemakers will cut intimidation and speed the repatriation process.

News of the changes emerged in the wake of an attempted mass escape at High Island early yesterday in which inmates stoned firemen attempting to douse blazes in the camp.

The CSD said that shortly after 2 am, about 200 masked Vietnamese tore down a metal washing line pole in the north section and used it to ram a fence.

In the face of warnings to stop, the Vietnamese attempted to set fire to two fence poles, using rubbish and blankets.

Nine canisters of CS gas were fired as officers judged the blazes might have put other detainees at risk, the CSD said.

More than 400 Security officers later removed 107 Vietnamese and sent them to Victoria Prison.