U.S., Vietnam agree on emigration of detainees - Joint statement - transcript

US Department of State Bulletin,  Nov, 1989  E-mail Print Link


U.S., Vietnam Agree on Emigration of Detainees






Representatives of the United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam at a meeting in Hanoi July 27-29, 1989, announced that they hope to commence by October 1989 a program for the resettlement in the United States of released reeducation center detainees and their close family members who wish to emigrate to the United States. The Vietnamese delegation was led by Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Vu Khoan. The U.S. delegation was led by Senior Deputy Assistant Secretary of State [for Refugee Programs] Robert L. Funseth, Acting Director of the Bureau for Refugee Programs.

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the United States of America, in order to resolve one of the issues of mutual concern to the two countries and consistent with their humanitarian policies and with the commitments undertaken in the declaration and the comprehensive plan of action adopted by the UN International Conference on Indochinese Refugees [June 13-14, 1989], will--in addition to existing programs--allow those released reeducation center detainees who were closely associated with the United States or its allies and who wish to do so to emigrate, together with their close relatives, to the United States.

The U.S. delegation declared that released reeducation center detainees coming to the United States would be subject to all U.S. laws, including those affecting the activities of U.S. residents toward other countries. The U.S. delegation reaffirmed that the United States has not encouraged nor does it have any intention of encouraging or using released detainees to engage in any illegal activities hostile or harmful to Vietnam--and is opposed to any such activities--and that the United States will accept these persons solely for humanitarian reasons and not for any hostile actions against Vietnam. The Vietnamese delegation also reaffirmed that Vietnam has not and will not encourage or use released detainees to engage in illegal actions hostile or harmful to the United States.

The two sides drew up a draft agreement, which included a technical annex, and agreed to establish a joint working group to coordinate implementation of the program. The two sides agreed that the program would be in addition to the existing Amerasian and orderly departure programs.

The two sides expressed great satisfaction with the results achieved and expressed hope that the first group of 3,000 persons for resettlement in the United States under this agreement will depart Vietnam before the end of the year after processing is completed.



COPYRIGHT 1989 U.S. Government Printing Office

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Vietnam Allows More Prisoners to Leave for U.S.


January 7, 1990

LEAD: More former inmates of re-education camps and their relatives arrived here today from Vietnam en route to new lives in the United States. More former inmates of re-education camps and their relatives arrived here today from Vietnam en route to new lives in the United States.

It was the second day of the first major resettlement of people who were imprisoned because they served the United States-backed South Vietnamese Government, which Communist forces toppled in April 1975.

A total of 151 former inmates and their families arrived in Bangkok today on charter flights from Ho Chi Minh City, said Komol Srinakul of the International Organization for Migration. The agency handles medical processing and transportation of the refugees. On Friday 156 arrived. To Join Relatives in U.S.

The Vietnamese will join relatives in the United States after a few days at a Thai immigration center.

A State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, said on Friday that the Bush Administration hoped that at least 7,000 former detainees and their relatives would be resettled by Sept. 30.

Those who arrived in Bangkok on Friday expressed joy at finally leaving Vietnam after many years of internment and waiting. Some described conditions in the Vietnamese camps as bad, and one claimed to have seen guards shoot 25 prisoners who had tried to flee.

Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were subjected for years to a spartan regimen of manual labor and political study after the fall of the South Vietnamese Government.

'The Last Big Wound'

The agreement on resettling former inmates was reached between Hanoi and Washington in July. The American negotiator, Robert L. Funseth, said at the time it would help heal ''the last big wound remaining from the war.''



The Next Wave From Vietnam: A New Disability



Published: October 15, 1989







LEAD: WHEN Nguyen Van Be, once a colonel in the South Vietnamese army, emerged from 13 years in a re-education camp last year, he wrote to his wife in Washington, wondering how to fit into a world that had left him behind. ''He feels he got lost somewhere,'' says his wife. ''He feels like someone from the jungle.''

Now Colonel Be is among thousands of former political prisoners waiting for a chance to move to the United States under an agreement reached last summer. Last week, American officials began interviewing freed prisoners in Ho Chi Minh City, the first step toward bringing the first 3,000 to the United States.

Another 100,000 former prisoners and their families have requested entry into the United States. Vietnamese authorities have put the figure of former prisoners and their families at 500,000.

Resettling this group will be a step toward closing out this nation's debt to its Indochinese wartime allies.

''These people have been detained because of their close association with us during the war,'' said Robert Funseth, the senior deputy assistant secretary of state for refugee affairs, who has spent most of this decade negotiating their resettlement. ''They are of special humanitarian concern to the United States.''

The United States has accepted more than a half million Vietnamese since the first 135,000 fled Vietnam at the end of the war in April 1975. The first were the lucky ones among the South Vietnamese elite, the ones who succeeded in the scramble for planes and helicopters.

During the mass escapes by boat that began in the late 1970's, the United States committed itself to taking 14,000 Vietnamese a month. This exodus included higher proportions of farmers, fishermen, and other villagers, people who did not fit so easily into Western society. There were proportionately fewer ethnic Chinese, with their economic hustle and Chinatown connections. At the same time, the large numbers of refugees began to strain government and private agencies.

Some communities have been transformed by the influx. In California, a state that officials say may be home to nearly half the Vietnamese refugees, the center of Westminster, just south of Los Angeles, is now known as ''Little Saigon.''

The former prisoners, who could begin arriving in the United States before the end of this year, include many former leaders of the South Vietnamese society that the United States was fighting to keep in place.

''There's going to be a lot of the old political leadership, old generals, old ministers, old party leaders,'' said Dawn Calabia, associate director for refugee affairs at the United States Catholic Conference. ''Some of them are going to be very embittered.''

The Lost and the Tough

Some, said Donald Cohon, a San Francisco psychologist who has interviewed former inmates, are likely to be ''shells of people, brutalized to the point where they are nonfunctional.'' Most, he said, will have suffered years of malnutrition.

But, as Ms. Calabia said, ''Some are going to turn out to be tough as nails, survivors of the worst the Vietnamese could do.''

There will be men like Nguyen Hau, an army major specializing in ordnance, who was released after being severely injured in a camp, fled by boat to Malaysia, arrived in the United States at the age of 52 and immediately went to school, after a lifetime of military service, to study to become a mechanic.

Mr. Hau, who was a mechanic until the small company he worked for folded recently, now heads a nationwide organization of former Vietnamese political prisoners. Based in Westminster, it is one of the groups that are preparing to help survivors of the re-education camps.

Another group, the Association of Families of Political Prisoners, is headed by Khuc Minh Tho, the wife of Colonel Be, a Government clerical worker with two children and a woman with a keen sense of the difficulties that some of the released men will be facing.

In his first letter after his release, she said, her husband asked the question that was on the minds of most of his fellow prisoners: Have you been faithful to me? Are you still waiting for me?

Some of the wives she knows here, Mrs. Tho said, have found new mates. ''They tell me, 'I don't think the prisoners will ever get out of the camps,' '' she said. ''They tell me they give up.''

Even now, women like Mrs. Tho cannot be certain whether their husbands will be allowed to leave the country or will be held back by the capriciousness that has marked refugee releases in the past.

''I pray,'' Mrs. Tho said, ''that he will be one of the lucky ones.''







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