In Southeast Asia, a delegation of American Congressmen touring refugee camps in the area is still hoping to visit Hanoi -- despite a statement by Vietnam on Monday (6 August) that it would not receive them.
In Southeast Asia, a delegation of American Congressmen touring refugee camps in the area is still hoping to visit Hanoi -- despite a statement by Vietnam on Monday (6 August) that it would not receive them. Hanoi Radio said last night that the Government had changed its mind about receiving the Congressmen, following what it called "slanderous allegations against Vietnam" by Representative Robert Drinan, a Democratic member of the delegation. The nine-member delegation of Congressmen, led by Benjamin Rosenthal began its survey of the refugee situation in the area last Wednesday (2 August) and planned to visit Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.
SYNOPSIS: In Thailand, the U.S. Congressmen visited several camps including the Nongkhai Lao refugee camp where thirty-seven thousand Lao refugees are being sheltered. In 1978, some forty-six thousand Lao refugees fled into Thailand across the Mekong River. Delegation leader, Benjamin Rosenthal, told newsmen that the Geneva conference on refugees, in concentrating on the Vietnamese boat people, had in effect failed to tackle the enormous problem of land refugees which Thailand is facing. Thailand now has an estimated one hundred and fifty thousand Indochinese refugees living within its border.
In Hong Kong, the Congressmen visited the Kai Tak North refugee camp which houses some fifteen thousand refugees. Last month, the number of boat people in Hong Kong passed the sixty thousand mark. Many of the refugees have been packed into ramshackle warehouses in conditions little better than the boats which brought them to Hong Kong.
Congressman George Miller said at the camp that the delegation was hoping to persuade the people in Hanoi to change their attitudes on flow of people from Vietnam. Congressman Robert Drinan added that Vietnam's new economic zones were "concentration camps" and they intended to talk to Vietnam about this. The group had planned to fly to Vietnam tomorrow (8 August) but this now seems doubtful following Hanoi Radio's latest statement. It claimed that Mr. Drinan had "distorted the Vietnam Government's policy on the Vietnamese people going abroad for family reunion", though the radio did not specify what remarks had caused offence. Mr. Drinan has defended his statements but says he is sorry if they have been misunderstood.