A French medical team has begun treating Vietnamese refugees on the Malaysian island of Pulau Bidong.
A French medical team has begun treating Vietnamese refugees on the Malaysian island of Pulau Bidong. It's estimated thirty-four thousand refugees are now living on the island awaiting resettlement, and the medical team's first priority is to carry out immunisations against cholera and smallpox. They began this major task on Friday (20 April), after arriving on the hospital ship Ile de Lumiere.
SYNOPSIS: Pulau Bidong is one of many islands off the east coast of Malaysia now housing Vietnamese refugees. It has been estimated there are now some sixty thousand refugees on these small islands.
The crowded conditions have caused problems with sanitation and the water supply. At present the refugees have to queue for water, but five storage tanks each with a capacity of 245-thousand litres (54-thousand gallons) are now under construction. These should help to alleviate the situation. A desalination plant and 150 flushing toilets are also being considered.
Among the refugees is Doctor Mao Thauh Hong, who has been doing what he can for the people on the island. And now the French hospital ship Ile de Lumiere is tied up off the island, the standard of medical care is improving. Thirty seriously ill refugees were taken on board on Friday (20 April), and the floating hospital can cope with 100 patients in its beds.
More refugees are arriving in Malaysia all the time, and reports from the area said more than seven hundred of the so-called "boat people" arrived within two days last week. The Malaysian Government has refused to allow some Vietnamese to land, saying because they had paid their way out of the country and were not true refugees. Australia, several European countries, Canada and the United States have accepted several thousand people who have left Vietnam. Many others have drowned trying to reach sanctuary around South-East Asia.
Those who leave Malaysia and are accepted by third countries are in the minority. However, the Malaysian Government, in association with the Red Crescent and the Red Cross, is investigating setting up a transit centre which could accommodate three thousand refugees for processing before they go on to permanent homes elsewhere. One of the new arrivals at Pulau Bidong said he had served as a paratrooper with the South Vietnamese Army. He alleged he had been brainwashed and jailed before he escaped by boat with twenty-three other people.