Vietnam’s Boat People Mark Anniversary With Return to Refugee Camps [RFA]

[ndlr] A lire sur le site de Radio Free Asia. Retour commémoratif à Poulo Bidong et sur les anciens lieux de mémoire (camps et cimetières) des boat people vietnamiens.

A group of former “boat people” who fled persecution by the communist government in Hanoi  at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 recently toured resettlement camps in Southeast Asia to mark their journey to sanctuary 40 years earlier, and to honor those who were not so lucky.

The group set off from Australia on Aug. 20 as part of a “Back to Freedom” boat tour organized by the Archive of Vietnamese Boat People to sites in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand—four key destinations for refugees seeking asylum after the conflict.

During a stop on Malaysia’s Bidong island, members of the group shared stories as a bus drove them to the former site of one of the largest refugee camps to house boat people in Southeast Asia before they were resettled to Western countries.

An island of less than one square mile (260 hectares) in area, Bidong was designated the principal refugee camp in Malaysia in August 1978 and prepped to receive some 4,500 asylum seekers, but by June the following year had a population of more than 40,000.

Conditions in the camp were cramped and unsanitary, while food and water had to be imported from the mainland by barge, and many refugees were forced to wait years on the island before being resettled.

But despite the grim state of the island camp, nearly 800,000 boat people fled Vietnam between the end of the war and the late 1990s to Malaysia and other regional countries, with as many as 400,000 perishing in the attempt, according to estimates by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

Lire la suite : RFA, 04/09/2015. Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by KaLynh Ngo. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Image « à la une » : Boat People / Wikipédia

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