photo by Dr. Ha H. Tuong
This story was submitted as part of Minnesota Remembers Vietnam. We have faithfully reproduced each story as it was originally submitted for the Story Wall, and have not corrected any spelling or grammar errors.
By Dr. Ha H. Tuong | Vietnamese Refugee
My escape route to Freedom: today, 42 years ago, I fled Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), followed the arrow route to Rach Gia and found a small fishing boat there. Most good boats were all gone. This town had been taken by the Communists a few days ago (we could be executed there if found trying to escape)… the skipper agreed to take the 60 of us into international waters to look for US Navy in his little boat: it was too small to be in the Ocean! The ticket was all of our belongings…
We sailed along genocide Khmer Rouge-occupied Cambodia (if caught, we could be among the 3,000,000 executed). US Navy 7th fleet was gone. We kept sailing into the gulf of Thailand… no life vest, no warm or rain clothes, US$10 in my pocket for both my ex wife and me, T-shirts, shorts and sandals and no future… of course, no cell phones….
Where the arrow head is on this map, we found a Thai fishing boat that took us… the story is much longer and full of suspense, but I’ll make it short here… we eventually landed at Pattani. Here, we found another Vietnamese refugee boat: it took us supposedly to go to Singapore where the Thai government told us (it was a lie to get rid of us) the US Navy was waiting…
Where the new arrowhead is pointing at on the map, we were caught by the Malaysian Coast Guard in South China Sea and taken to an island where we were incarcerated in a refugee camp. We were well guarded by three branches of the Malaysian army: Air Force jets, special weapon infantry and Navy Coast Guard…
For the next 6months, we’ll be eating rotten slimy rice with two little dry minnows sautéed in coconut oil. The same daily menu for both lunch and dinner. Nevertheless, we were thankful we were given refuge and a hope of survival.
Among over a million escaped as we did, probably 400,000 died at sea… to be continued in my book “Peace or Freedom.”
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