Bidong Island, a speck in the South China sea, close to the coast of Malaysia and up until two years ago an uninhabited granite outcrop.
GV & TV Bidong Island with shanty town built on hillside (3 SHOTS)
SV Mass of refugees walking through main thoroughfare
CU: Children playing while other look on (6 SHOTS)
GV ZOOM IN TO CU Rations being distributed by group leaders on beach (3 SHOTS)
LV & CU EXTERIOR AND INTERIOR Sick bay with doctor examining children (6 SHOTS)
TV & CU Children playing on beach (4 SHOTS)
CU & SV Young children sitting around with mothers (4 SHOTS)
TV, SV & CU Refugee children and GV island (6 SHOTS)
TRANSCRIPT: ROSS: "Bidong today bears the scars of its newfound life. One face of the pyramid has been stripped of timber; deep wells pockmark the open spaces; a city has been built-a city where the house are made of Malaysian sugar sacks and blue plastic sheeting from the free world. It's a city where the people tramp the narrow alleyways to relieve the long wait that precedes eventual asylum. A city with no dogs, no cats, no cars and an abundance of children. Now that a massive resettlement programme is underway throughout Malaysia there's a newfound spirit of optimism on Bidong. An efficient security system, enforced by the Vietnamese themselves ensures the Bidong children can enjoy some measure of understanding , tolerance and friendship-as laid down in the united Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child. And as they gain in confidence, all those old enough to talk fire the same question at every visitor to the Island.
On the beach, rations bought with United Nation's money, have arrived from the mainland. Group leaders haggle over supplies of chicken and fresh fish to supplement the packs of sardines, rice, tea, biscuits and baked beans.
There is some degree of malnutrition on Bidong Island. Cao Quy Sanh is eight - he weighs about the same as an average four-year-old in Australia. Sanh's family, in fact, wants to go to Australia. Dr. Ho Hoi, who came out of Vietnam on a boat with seven other doctors, has prescribed a high protein diet and says that Sanh will make the grade.
The vast majority of refugee children from Vietnam are already victims of a classic Catch Twenty-two. The Vietnamese government appears set on expelling its ethnic Chinese population. Yet for the privilege of being forced out of the country, the parents of these children are expecting to pay - in gold or in U.S. dollars. An adult fare costs anything between one and three-thousand dollars; children half-price. And so many families arrive at Bidong Island in conditions of extreme deprivation. For the children that deprivation is often underlined by hours of stunning boredom; of day after day when there just isn't enough to do.
The Shanty town of Bidong could be empty by this time next year if the fragile understanding between the United States and Vietnam does produce results, and the controlled departure becomes the order of the day. But for the moment, there are still more than thirty thousand people on this island."
NARRATOR: PETER ROSS
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: Bidong Island, a speck in the South China sea, close to the coast of Malaysia and up until two years ago an uninhabited granite outcrop. Today it's perhaps the largest refugee camp in the world with a population of fifty thousand Vietnamese boat people...half of them are children. The people are waiting for resettlement. It means for many children a split from their families ??? are hundreds of homeless children ??? of any ??? future does not look particularly ho??? report from Peter ??? of ABC.