Pulau Bidong Refugee Camp 1978 - 1991, Malaysia

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Bidong Boat people:

If you stayed in this camp, we need your story. Any information is highly appreciated. If you see it here, we'd still like to hear from you. Corroboration is important. We will always need more information. Please email us at vt268tengah@gmail.com

Story of PB 698

Story from Ken Vuong
Đa số là dân Sài Gòn, Chợ Lớn. Đa số là người Việt góc Hoa.. Xuống tàu ỡ Bến Mỹ Tho vào buỗi chiều, rời bến vào buỗi tối, trên sông ra biễn đã có tiếng súng nỗ , nhừng đã an toàn ra biễn, sau 5 ngày thì được tàu dầu cứu đưa vào đão Bidong ngày 5 tháng 10 1982.

I left Vietnam when I was 16. My family couldn't affort to go together. The people on our boat were mostly from Saigon, and we departed Mytho on Oct 1st, 1982. Our boat was only 14 meters long. With 54 or 64 people on board, we were sitting in the hull of the boat with no room to move. I got sea sick within 15 minutes of boarding. I slept most of the time, waking only to beg for water, which had been mixed with a bit of sea water. We had plenty of fuel on board. Because of the rough seas, fuel was spilled, leaving my back was soaked with diesel. The fuel gave my back a bad chemical burn.

On the 5th day, we were saved by an oil tanker. In order for them to save us, our boat had to be broken, so they transferred us to their ship, and our engine and fuel were removed. Our rescuers rammed our wooden boat 5 times before she finally broke apart on the open sea. They served us dinners and took us direct to Bidong. (Thanks to whatever that ship was, sorry didn't know the name)

The first 2 weeks I stayed with the people were friends of my uncle. They said I had to sell my gold and jade to buy fresh food. I had to climb a mountain to collect wood for cooking. After they spent all my money, it was time to kick me out. So, the guy upstairs took me in, his name was Lương, I think he went to Canada. The girl next door felt sorry for me, she cooked for me too. I stayed on the Island for about 2 or 3 months. The last 4 weeks, I stayed in the temple up on the hill, i was a Phật Tữ Long Hoa too . Then transfer to Sungei Biesi near Kulalumpu for another 2 or 3 months before I got transfer to Bataan in Phillipines for 6 months. I arrived in California in Sep 1983.

Oh yeah, the girl next door in Bidong. We married in 1990, we have 2 boys, 19 and 20 years old now. I was a boat people. Thanks for what I had and have. I don't take things for granted.

Thanks for reading my little story.

Submited by Ken Vuong

Story from Ming Au
Departed from MyTho on October 10, 1982. 64 people in total. We first sailed in the opposite direction as a disguise. Then made a U-turn after sunset.

Around 7pm: Boat attempted to bypass MyTho custom checkpoint. They fired shots and dispatched boats to chase us. We escaped. No one was injured but water was leaking through the holes on the containers.

After leaving the last port in Vietnam in the dark, we were spotted by state-run fishing boats. Once again we escaped, but our engine was overheated so we stopped and waited for it to cool down.

Third day: Saw a Thai fishing boat. We asked for food but they were oblivious to our call and simply steered off.

Fourth day: Engine broke down. Repair was successful after a few glitches. In the evening we were struck by a storm. Sea water and oil kept spilling in.

Fifth day: The next morning a Thai fishing boat gave us some water but refused to take them to land. We begged for help but they threatened us with a rifle. Later we spotted a freighter, which avoided us. More and more people were sufferring burns from motor oil. Some people were showing signs of dehydration.

We finally spotted a petroleum rig and sailed all the way towards it. A fire boat was dispatched from the petroleum rig to rescue us. In order for the Malaysian authority to accept us as refugees, they sank our boat and took us to Pulau Bidong. All 64 of us arrived at 3am, October 15. Five of the passengers had to stay in the camp hospital for treatment of burns.

Submited by Ming Au

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