After the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975, more than a million people fled the communist ruling by boats to the South China Sea. They faced obstacles such as pirate attacks, violent sea storms, thirst and starvation. Many lives were lost. Those that survived the journey immigrated to non-communist countries around the world. The majority of them found freedom and new life in the United States. My dad was one of them.
On April 10, 1975, the Hanoi government of North Vietnam took control over the South. South Vietnamese, particularly “intellectuals” and those thought to have been associated with the previous regime, underwent terrible punishment, persecution and “re-education.” Seeking their freedom, thousands of South Vietnamese took to the sea in rickety boats, often with few supplies, and faced the dangers of nature, pirates, and starvation. While the sea and its danger claimed many lives, those who made it to the refugee camps still faced struggle and hardships in their quest for freedom.
Here are collected the narratives of nineteen men and women who survived the ordeal of escape by sea. Today, they live in the United States as students, professors, entrepreneurs, scientists, and craftspeople who have chosen to tell the stories of their struggles and their triumph. Each narrative is accompanied by a brief biographical note.
Mary Terrell Cargill is an associate professor of English at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee. Jade Ngoc Quang Huynh, a native of Vietnam, is an assistant professor at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, where he teaches creative writing.
Réf. : Cargill, Mary Terrell & Huynh, Jade Ngoc Quang, Voices of Vietnamese Boat People: Nineteen Narratives of Escape and Survival, Jefferson, NC – London, Mc Farland, 2000, 192 p.
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The biggest diaspora in Vietnamese history occurred between 1975 and 1992, when more than two million people fled by boat to escape North Vietnam’s oppressive communist regime. Before this well-known exodus from Vietnam’s shores, however, there was a massive population shift within the country. In 1954, one million fled from north to south to escape war, famine, and the communist land reform campaign. Many of these refugees went on to flee Vietnam altogether in the 1970s and 1980s, and the experiences of 1954 influenced the later diaspora in other ways as well.
This book reassesses the causes and dynamics of the 1975-92 diaspora. It begins with a discussion of Vietnam from 1939 to 1954, then looks closely at the 1954 “Operation Exodus” and the subsequent resettlements. From here the focus turns to the later events that drove hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese to flee their homeland in 1975 and the years that followed. Planning for escape, choosing routes, facing pirates at sea, and surviving the refugee camps are among the many topics covered. Stories of individual escapees are provided throughout. The book closes with a look at the struggles and achievements of the resettled Vietnamese. (McFarland book description).
Nghia M. Vo is a Vietnamese-American, helped found the nonprofit Saigon Arts, Culture & Education Institute, and has written multiple books on Vietnamese culture. He lives in Virginia. He strives to document Vietnamese-American culture through conferences, publications and a website www.sacei07.org. He is also the author of The Bamboo Gulag: Political Imprisonment in Communist Vietnam (McFarland 2004).
Réf. : Nghia M. Vo, The Vietnamese Boat People, 1954 and 1975-1992, Jefferson, NC – London, McFarland, 2006, 208 p.
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Concise history of Vietnamese Refugees, by Smallchief, 06/04/2007
This is a clear, readable, and concise book about Vietnamese refugees. There have been a large number of books on this subject, but this is one of the better and more complete ones I have encountered.
The author begins with a subject neglected by many authors — a description of the refugee flight that came about as a result of the French defeat and the Communist takeover of North Vietnam in 1954. About one million people fled North Vietnam at that time. He then jumps forward 20 years to an account of the many different phases of the 1975-1992 humanitarian crisis — and crisis it was — beginning as a consequence of the defeat of the U.S.-supported South Vietnamese government in 1975. Throughout the narrative, he mixes in the personal stories of individuals escaping from Communism, their life in the refugee camps, and their later experiences in the United States. Finally, he describes the refugee policies of the countries who hosted and helped — sometimes reluctantly — Vietnamese refugees: the United States, Thailand, Malaysia, France, Canada, Australia, and others.
The author draws most of his material from previously published books, but his insights often have a interesting twist of their own, perhaps because the author himself is Vietnamese, experienced some of the events he describes, and reflects the view — very anti-communist — of many in the American Vietnamese community.
Memories become history, by Viet Reader, 07/04/2007
I lived through all the periods of Vietnamese history mentioned in the book. I witnessed (as a child) the 1954 exodus from the North, the 1975 event leading to the concentration camps, the exodus of the boat people from Vietnam and their life outside of Vietnam. It’s quite an extraordinary and pleasant experience for me to read “The Vietnamese Boat People”. It’s like being led on an instructive tour to your own hometown, guided by a scholarly (and surgeon) friend who writes English in a way very few of us can, to revisit familiar places that you thought you have always known so well, only to find out that there are a lot of new things and perspectives about your own past and your country’s past. With the book,my own eclectic, personal pieces of memory seem to find their place in the jigsaw puzzle. It may help former refugees like myself, and hopefully our English speaking progeny, find a sense of meaning and purpose from our turbulent and traumatic past. For some of us, this may also provide some relief from lingering guilts and regrets about our past lost cause, and maybe, a sense of closure necessary to start a new chapter for our life and for our former country that still stays behind in every way.
Source : Amazon
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[ndlr] Article de Frédéric Lewino et Gwendoline Dos Santos paru dans le magazine Le Point du 10 novembre 1978. A travers le récit de l’odyssée du cargo Hai Hong, les journalistes dénoncent le “trafic de chair humaine” orchestré par la RSVN avec ses propres citoyens candidats à l’exil.
Le gouvernement vietnamien organise lui-même le trafic de réfugiés, qui lui rapporte des centaines de millions de dollars.
Le petit Tranh, 9 ans, est blotti contre sa mère. Il a faim, il a soif, son corps est couvert d’eczéma. Il a peur. Où est son papa ? Le petit garçon n’a même plus la force de se plaindre. Sa petite soeur est dans le même état que lui. Ils sont ainsi des centaines d’enfants, mais aussi des femmes, des vieillards et des hommes, entassés sur ce vieux rafiot baptisé Hai Hong. Voilà seize jours, depuis leur embarquement à Hô Chi Minh-Ville (Saïgon), que 2 449 Vietnamiens fuyant le communisme vivent un terrible calvaire. On leur avait dit que la traversée ne prendrait que quelques jours, mais elle s’éternise. Les provisions apportées par la mère de Tranh ont vite disparu. Depuis, c’est l’enfer. La chaleur, la pisse et la merde répandues partout, les pleurs, le bruit, les maux de ventre. Le cargo est devenu un immense barbecue chauffé par un soleil de plomb. L’odyssée du Hai Hong, qui fait forcément penser à celle de l’Exodus, fait la une de tous les journaux du monde le 10 novembre 1978.
Lire la suite : Le Point, 10 novembre 1978. Le Point.fr – Publié le
Archives télévisuelles :
- Les réfugiés vietnamiens, INA, SOIR 3 19H10 – 14/11/1978 – 01min09s
2500 boat people fuyant le régime communiste de Saïgon sont bloqués sur le cargo le “Haï Hong” au large de la Malaisie et de l’Indonésie en attendant une terre d’accueil. Ils sont jugés immigrants illégaux. Leur situation devient tragique, ils n’ont ni eaux ni nourriture et les enfants sont couverts d’exéma. A bord du bateau il y a eu une mutinerie et le bateau connaît des problèmes techniques. La pression internationale a permis de débloquer une aide humanitaire de base : leur distribuer de l’eau et des vivres.
- Bateau français au secours des Vietnamiens, INA, IT1 20H – 22/11/1978 – 02min21s
Création d’un comité de soutien aux réfugiés politiques du Vietnam et qui meurent chaque jour dans des bateaux en Mer de Chine. Interview de Bernard KOUCHNER qui explique le but de ce comité : envoyer un bateau au secours des boat people et la place de Médecins sans Frontière pour assurer la partie médicale. Interview d’Yves MONTAND sur le sens de son engagement au sein de ce comité, comme d’autres intellectuels (SARTRE, Raymond ARON…).
- Les réfugiés du Haï Hong, INA, Question de temps – 27/11/1978 – 05min45s
Reportage sur les réfugiés viêtnamiens en Malaisie. Les boat people qui s’échouent sur une plage racontent leur exode et leur condition de vie dans les bateaux.
Réfugiés vietnamiens en France (TF1 30/11/78)
Transbordement des réfugiés vietnamiens du cargo Haï-Hong dans 2 vedettes. Arrivée en France des réfugiés à l’aéroport de Roissy. Ruée des journalistes. Embarquement des passagers à bord des cars Air France. Arrivée dans cité d’accueil.