In South-east Asia, refugees from Vietnam sometimes called "the boat people" continue to wait for resettlement in western countries.
In South-east Asia, refugees from Vietnam sometimes called "the boat people" continue to wait for resettlement in western countries. A French ship converted into a floating hospital arrived in Singapore Harbour on Thursday (12 April) on its way to a small Malaysian island which now acts as a temporary home for 35,000 "boat people". And more than five hundred Vietnamese refugees were rescued from a sinking boat in the Gulf of hundred Vietnamese refugees were rescued from a sinking boat in the Gulf of Thailand on Thursday (12 April) bringing the population of Vietnamese boat people in Thailand to almost six thousand.
SYNOPSIS: The hospital ship in Singapore Harbour is called the Ile de Lumiere. The operation to provide desperately needed medical care to the Vietnamese refugees on the Malaysian island of Bidong was organised by a French group. The ship has been converted from a small freighter to a hospital ship with 100 beds.
Seven French doctors and a nurse will carry out the operation. Facilities aboard the ship include an operating theatre, X-ray room and laboratories. A French fund-raising campaign will finance the hospital ship.
Another ship, a Thai freighter called the Kua Koon arrived at Samut Prakan in the Gulf of Thailand on Thursday (12 April), with more than 500 refugees aboard. They were rescued from a sinking boat in the gulf last Sunday (8 April).
According to Thai officials, the refugees, including 163 women and 156 children will be allowed ashore only on condition that they are quickly resettled in other countries.
But officials of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said they were seeking permission from Thai authorities to take the refugees off the ship. Meanwhile the Vietnamese are being supplied with food and medicine by the UNCHR. About 80 percent of the refugees are from Saigon and the rest from Rachia or Long Xuen, in the southern delta region of Vietnam. They told authorities they left Vietnam on a fifty ton fishing boat, and had been robbed by pirates while at sea.
The Captain of the Kua Koon has been detained by Thai police, charged with helping illegal immigrants into the country and smuggling gold and foreign currency. Police said they seized about 500 U.S. dollars and gold found on the freighter. But the captain said the Vietnamese forced their way on board after he offered to tow them and in the process the refugees sunk their own boat. UNCHR officials are concerned about conditions on board the freighter. The deck is narrow and temperatures are soaring on the vessel which has no sanitary facilities.
Most of the refugees said they are hoping to be accepted in the United States or Australia.