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Kuku Refugee Camp

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Kuku Boat people

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Story of LA 3691

. A place where I spent 5 months of my childhood life time that was full of sweet and bitterness memories. It seems like yesterday even though it’s been a bit more than 30 years since I left there. I still remember vividly and precisely what I went through in Kuku. Back then I was only a bit older than 13 years old….

  • We dispatched from Long An with 639 people on board, ( Boat LA3691 )
  • Thai pirates attacked and robbed us on 3 different occasions prior to the arrival in Malaysia in the morning. We did not have much luck with the Malaysian navy at all as they started bashing up a few of the young man who were trying to explain our circumstances and they confiscated all our sailing equipments and subsequently towed us back to the international water that night with their powerful war ship in a tremendous speed which all almost killed us in the process. Fortunately, the sailors slashed the ropes before it was too late.
  • The next few days we were pretty much sailing aimlessly till we arrived in some islands where we stayed for a night and the local Indonesian islanders spotted us and took us all to Keramut village and kept us all accommodated in their local meeting hall…
  • A few days later, we were all taken to Kuku island and it was already the 2nd of July 1979.
  • By then the total numbers of people on our boat were 629. 10 deceased including one of the girls that I traveled with on the way to Long An from Saigon.

From Elam Dec 1st 2009

Another LA 3691 passenger's story

I am writing this in memory of my beloved dad, The Hoang, who had been through Communist, prison, restricted economic concentrated camp to get his children to freedom and United States.

Boat LA 3691 to Kuku Island, my family was there. My dad brought 17 people onboard to the boat LA 3691. My dad mentioned that the boat has more like 800, not 600 people, which some people might have not been registered or reported. It was very clowded. There were no place to lay down or stretch one leg on the bottom floor, we just bent our leg in or kneeled during the entire adventure. When you are tired, you can got to the top deck for stretch. We were not allow to go inside the room on the top floor.

Initially, the captain plan was to travel north to Hong Kong. Shortly after we left, we hit rough sea and thunder storms. The captain and crew decided to go south. We went by Thailand and a member on the website had mentioned, there were three pirate boats surrounding us, taking turn boarding to rob the people. Because we are one of the larger boat and many people, Thai pirates were afraid to board all at one. I was at the bottom of the ship and very sea sick. When they finished, they deliberately sabotaged the boat. Water starting to come in the bottom floor. The captain and crews did not seem to concern or care much. I remembered my dad quickly gathered all my cousins and recruited young men onboard taking turn to scoop water while the boat continued to travel south.

The captain was very selfish. On the trip south, the members in charge of the boat kept lying to us, who were sitting on the bottom floor, that the boat didn't have enough drinking water. While they were serving rice, full meal and drinking water to their family. They gave us half drinking water and half sea salt water cooked porridge. Later on, we found out their were plenty water underneath the boat where we sat.

We got to Malaysia, saw big roads and houses but stopped by their coast guard and demanded gold bar from the captain. Negotiation was to guide the boat to the new territory for some gold amount. They took the compass and navigation equipment and tired a rope behind their patrol boat and guide us to Indonesia sea border before cutting us loose. The boat without any compass continued to travel until we saw an island. Everyone was very excited that we found land. The length of this entire journey was 9 days since we left Long An. The captain and some crews were again thinking about continuing to search for Singapore and/or south to Australia. At that time, without the boat meant without identification. My dad and some young men decided to wreck the boat so everyone can be represented by LA 3691 members. My younger sister, brother and myself did not know how to swim at that time, I was so embarrassed to have our cousins floating us in. The Indonesian tried to sell an apple for one US dollar, which was very expensive at that time.

As I still remembered, the first night on the ground was raining very hard. Everyone slept either under some tree or rain cloth they brought in the rain. That was the first time after 9 days we felt peaceful and not sea sick. We went to another keramut island before we ended up at Julie island.

Don't remembered how long we were there, maybe late 1979 or early 1980, but we were the last group to leave the Kuku island and observed the official burning down the island before we headed to Galang.

Here, I would like to thank you for putting this http://www.refugeecamps.net/LA3691.html site up and allow everyone to share our lifetime experiences. Keep up with this wonderful work.

From Mathew

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