• Short Summary

    Vietnam has called for the return of a fishing trawler and the refugees aboard following its arrival in the north Australian port of Darwin on Tuesday (29 November).

  • Description

    LV Island of Tengah, Malaysia, with Vietnamese refugee boats along foreshore (5 shots)

    SV Group of refugees facing camera

    SV Boats on the sand (2 shots)

    SV Young people on the beach

    LV PAN Refugee living accommodation on the beach

    CU Refugee woman

    SV Refugees resting and washing up in huts (2 shots)

    SV Refugees living on boat

    SV PAN FROM Washing lines on beach TO children in front of huts

    LV Hut interior

    SV Refugees on beach

    CU Reporter talking to two leaders of the group, Nguyen Hoang Chong replying first followed by Nguyen Van Tay (2 shots)

    GV Refugee boats on the beach (2 shots)

    JOYCE: "This tiny tropical island off the east coast of Malaysia is now the temporary home for 1,400 Vietnamese refugees, the so-called boat people. Some have been on the island for a year, waiting to be processed for acceptance by a third country perhaps Australia. But now their patience is running out. They know that some of their compatriots have jumped the queue and cut through the red tape by sailing directly to Australia. There's no doubt that the recent Darwin arrivals have set an ominous precedent for Australia's immigration policy. The boat people now believe that Australia is their best chance of a permanent new home. They told me that they think their best chance of being accepted in australia is to make their own way there by boat, to present the Australian authorities with a fait accompli, whatever the dangers of the long sea voyage. Conditions at the camp are far better than many I've visited in Thailand. There are three ........doctors among the refugees and food and medicine from the United Nations and other relief agencies is handled by Malaysia's Red Cross, the Red Crescent.

    "These refugees are not poor farmers or former soldiers fleeing for their lives. They don't speak of killings in the new Vietnam, but complain of regimentation, enforced moves from the cities to the new economic zones and the nationalisation of assets. Many are Chinese businessmen from the former Saigon. They speak almost as much Cantonese as Vietnamese. These days only people with means can afford to escape.

    "Nguyen Hoang Chong and Nguyen Van Tay are the leaders of the group."

    JOYCE: "There are now something like 1,400 people here on this island off the Malaysian coast. What is their feeling? How do they feel in their hearts about the future?"

    NGUYEN HOANG CHONG: "Most of them would like very much to be resettled in a third country and since they are to crowded in here, the conditions in here are quite precarious for them. So they would like very much to go, and they know that it is the main responsibility of the U.S. to accept them. As a matter of fact, the American teams have come here and worked with us in order to process the people who want to go. But nevertheless, there are so many people who have waited so long that they have become frustrated and they would like to go by their own means. And, when they intend to go, they intend to go to Australia."

    JOYCE: "Is there a feeling amongst refugees that if you arrive in Australia at Darwin, that is your best chance of a permanent new home?"

    NGUYEN HOANG CHONG: "Yes it is."

    NGUYEN VAN TAY: "They think there is a better chance for them to be accepted in Australia if they go there by boat."

    JOYCE: "I was told that if an expected Australian immigration team does not come to the island in the near future, then at least half the total group -- 700 -- will try to sail directly to Darwin."

    Later on Wednesday the Australian government rejected Vietnamese demands for the return of the boat's occupants.

    Initials BB/1840

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: Vietnam has called for the return of a fishing trawler and the refugees aboard following its arrival in the north Australian port of Darwin on Tuesday (29 November). In Canberra on Wednesday, the Vietnamese Charge d'Affaires officially asked Australia to return the 120-ton refrigerated prawn boat, which had docked the day before, and its 21 crew members. 157 refugees and three captive communist guards. The refugees have been taken ashore to a quarantine centre amid growing public pressure in Australia for any further Vietnamese arrivals to be turned away. More than 900 refugees have reached Australia by sea since communist forces took control of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) two years ago. Thailand and Malaysia have refused to accept any more fugitives. Further refugee boats are expected and a team of immigration officials have been sent to Singapore to try to stop Vietnamese setting out for Australia by sea. Tony Joyce of the Australian Broadcasting Commission reports from a refugee camp on the Malaysian Island of Tengah:

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