Koh Kra: "Hell on Earth"

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Voices of Refugees

From Ha Cuong

12 days in Koh Kra (October 1979)

An Unnumbered boat with 29 souls aboard left Rach Gia, canal "Be" in Oct 10, 1979. This was a very small boat, about 6 meters long. We were 18 men, 5 women and 6 children. After travelling awhile, our boat became stuck on a sand bar, and the men jumped out to push us free.

The next day oct 12, the engine quit working. We floated for a couple day until a Thai Fishing boat appearred on the horizon on Oct 15. This was a big boat, about 30 meters long. As the fishing boat drew close I saw a Budhist shrine in the cabin, and the fishermen aboard looking at us. We were lucky; they were kind and helpful. They fed us rice soup. We could only communicate with gestures. The fishermen gave us to understand they were unable to take us to the mainland, so they took us to Koh Kra island. We arrived at about 6 pm on Oct 15, 1979.

That night we were awakened by a group of 7 Thai men, armed with a flare gun. They searched each of us, and took everything they thought might have value, before taking the women into the jungle and raping them. Later we learned that the Thai men who had abused us were fishermen. Like many others, they had discovered that refugees were a far richer catch than fish. We carried all our savings in the form of gold, diamonds, and U.S. dollars. The pirate who captured a refugee boat first had a rich prize indeed. We had not prepared for an attack. None of us had agreed on strategy, and we were unarmed. I was travelling alone, so I was ready to accept the decisions of the group.

We spend 12 days on the island. I buried US $40.00 in a matchbox, hidden under a big rock on the beach. After the first attack, all the women hid in the jungle whenever we saw a fishing boat on the horizon. The men lined up to take the pirates' abuse. After the pirates searched us, they gave us some fish, water, rice and sugar. They robbed and raped, but they kept us alive. After 12 days, we were rescued by a Thai navy boat. They took us to the Pak Phanang police station. Pak Phanang belong to Nakhon_Si_Thammarat, where we remained for a couple days We were transferred to the Songkhla refugee camp in Nov 1979. We heard that after we left, another group of refugees was stranded on Koh Kra. Among them were writer Nhat Tien and journalist Dương Phục.

Cường Songkhla 1979-81

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