Former 'Boat People' Plead To Malaysia Not To
Destroy Bidong Memorial
WASHINGTON, June 28 (Bernama) -- Overseas
Vietnamese, who fled the communist regime after the fall of Saigon
in 1975 in boats or "the Boat People" as they were called, are
pleading to the Malaysian government not to destroy the memorial
they set up on Pulau Bidong in Terengganu to commemorate their
comrades who perished in their quest for freedom.
There is a
vigorous online chatter out there among the millions of overseas
Vietnamese calling for a collective action to stop the move by
Letters have been written to the Malaysian Foreign
Affairs Ministry pleading their case.
Vietnamese Americans in
California are threatening a massive protest in front of the
Malaysian Consulate in Los Angeles to call for a halt to the
destruction of the memorial.
There are an estimated 2.6
million to 3.0 million Vietnamese in the United
Derrick Nguyen, 41, who arrived in Pulau Bidong in
1980 with just his shirt on his back, and now a Civil Litigation
lawyer in Los Angeles, California, said, "the Vietnamese government
pressured the Indonesian government to destroy the memorial set up
in Pulau Galang, which they did, and now they are pressuring the
Malaysian government to do the same with Bidong."
Tourism Minister, Datuk Leo Michael Toyad, at a press conference to
promote Malaysia in the US, said in Los Angeles that the Malaysian
government were "good friends with the Vietnamese government" and
"would look for a solution."
Nguyen, now an American citizen,
who was in Malaysia in March, said, "I had goosebumps and I cried
with many others when I revisited Pulau Bidong. The memorial
reminded me of the hundreds of thousands who died at sea in seeking
"I was so touched by the warm welcome we
received from the Menteri Besar and the people of Terengganu. We
will never forget their kindness when we needed it then."
remember how the Malaysians, especially people in Terengganu had
helped rescued us, and gave a proper burial for those who died at
sea," said Nguyen who himself was rescued by a Terengganu
About 850,000 people died on their voyages in
little boats while traversing the South China Sea in the 70's and
80's in search of refuge after South Vietnam capitulated to North
Vietnam, which marked the end of Vietnam War in 1975.
said, when he returned to Los Angeles, many of his friends and
former boat people who are now part of the community, asked many
questions about Pulau Bidong, the changes there, and the abandoned
Last year, President George Bush appointed
Nguyen, for a two-year term as Commissioner of the President's
Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific
"We go around the US to help poor communities
assimilate into the American mainstream, write a report and advise
the president on the Asian community here," he
Meanwhile, Pulau Bidong is an unlikely tourist spot for
many, but overseas Vietnamese are planning yearly "pilgrimages" to
the island they now regard as "sacred" to pay respect to families
and friends who did not make the freedom journey.
estimated 500 former refugees in the US are planning to visit the
island before the end of the year.
The former boat people who
settled and had children in America, Australia and elsewhere are now
taking their children and grandchildren on a memory trip for them to
gain an insight on the hardship they went through before they were
finally settled in third countries.
"Bidong was our first
stop towards freedom and the message from the minister (Toyad) is
very encouraging." said Nguyen
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