Sunday, April the 30th marks the third anniversary of the fall of the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon to the North Vietnamese Communists.
Sunday, April the 30th marks the third anniversary of the fall of the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon to the North Vietnamese Communists. Three years on, the problem of refugees from the regime remains enormous.
SYNOPSIS: April the 30th, 1975. The victorious North Vietnamese roll into the Presidential Palace in Saigon, and those who had not already fled-fearful of what might come. Would there be a bloodbath or not?
In the early days, widespread retribution was held down, but reports grew that those held by the Communists to be politically undesirable were being shot or imprisoned. Others were being sent to "re-education" camps or expelled to the country. Contrary to film allowed out of Vietnam in 1976, mechanical cultivators were a rare luxury in the rice paddies.
The main exodus from Vietnam took place after fall of Saigon. But last year another flood of refugees started fleeing the country and are still doing so. These refugees 300 of them - finished up last year crammed aboard a 130 foot boat moored off Malaysia who won't accept them.
Since 1975 more than 100,000 have been in Thailand, the closest non-Communist neighbour to Vietnam. There are harrowing tales of escapes from Vietnam, by sea and land, against almost insuperable problems. There are many reports of murder, rape, capture and execution. There are also reports of refugees being subject to extortionate treatment at the hands of unscrupulous profiteers in some of the countries through which they pass. Those who reach Malaysia are reported to be well treated in transit camps. But Malaysia can't accept any more and they have to be resettled elsewhere.
South East Asian nations say the West should do more, particularly Australia and the United States. Australia is accepting seven thousand Indo-Chinese refugees and the United States, 170,000. Canada is accepting seven thousand. Japan announced on Friday (29 April) that it will now grant Vietnamese residence permits provided proof is given that they have either a foster parent or a guarantor.
The refugees aboard this plane were going to France which has a large Vietnamese community dating from the days when Vietnam was a French Colony. France plans to accept 42,000 Indo-Chinese refugees.
Among those who arrived in Paris on Wednesday (26 April) was a cameraman, Tran Huu Trong, who had been put in jail on the charge that he was a spy. On release, he defected. About his new home he had this to say.