A PRAYER FOR LAND
Lost in the tempests
out on the open seas
our small boats drift
we seek for land
during endless days and endless nights
we are the foam
floating on the vast ocean
we are the dust
wandering in endless space
our cries are lost
in the howling wind
without food, without water,
our children lie exhausted
until they cry no more
we thirst for land
but are turned back from every shore
our distress signals rise and rise again
but the passing ships do not stop
how many boats have perished
how many families lie beneath the waves
Lord Jesus, do you hear the prayer of our flesh?
Lord Buddha, do you hear our voice?
O fellow humans, do you hear our voice
from the abyss of death?
o solid shore
we long for you!
We pray for Mankind to be present today!
We pray for Land to stretch its arms to us!
We pray that Hope be given us
TODAY, from any Land!
Xin Đừng Quên Tôi
Boat people is a term that usually refers to illegal immigrants or asylum seekers who emigrate en masse in boats that are sometimes old and crudely made rendering them unseaworthy and unsafe. The term came into common use during the late 1970s with the mass departure of Vietnamese refugees from Communist-controlled Vietnam, following the Vietnam War.
Events resulting from the Vietnam War led many people in Cambodia, Laos, and especially Vietnam to become refugees in the late 1970s and 1980s, after the fall of Saigon. In Vietnam, the new communist government sent many people who supported the old government in the South to "re-education camps", and others to "new economic zones." An estimated 1 million people were imprisoned without formal charges or trials. According to published academic studies in the United States and Europe, 165,000 people died in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam's re-education camps. Thousands were abused or tortured. These factors, coupled with poverty, caused hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese to flee the country. In 1979, Vietnam was at war (Sino-Vietnamese War) with the People's Republic of China (PRC). Many ethnic Chinese living in Vietnam, who felt that the government's policies directly targeted them, also became "boat people." On the open seas, the boat people had to confront forces of nature, and elude pirates.
The plight of the boat people became an international humanitarian crisis. There were untold miseries, rapes and murders on the South China Sea committed by Thai pirates who preyed on the refugees who had sold all their possessions and carried gold with them on the trips. The UNHCR, under the auspices of the United Nations, set up refugee camps in neighbouring countries to process the "boat people". They received the 1981 Nobel Peace Prize for this.
Camps were set up in Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Indonesia. According to stories told by the Vietnamese refugees, the conditions at the camps were poor. Very little of the aid money donated primarily by the United States actually got to the refugees. Refugees at Thai camps were maltreated and many were brutally bullied by the Thai guards. Some 863 Vietnamese were known to be raped, 763 people physically attacked and killed, and 489 people abducted, some 77% of refugee boats leaving in 1981 were attacked by Thais. Most of the refugees came from the former South Vietnam. However, soon after the first wave between 1975-1978, North Vietnamese from seaside cities such as Haiphong started to escape and land in Hong Kong. Among them were genuine ethnically Chinese Vietnamese refugees who escaped from Vietnam and headed to China and Hong Kong.
One forgotten group of Vietnamese boat people were those who escaped by land across the Cambodian and Thailand border. They did not travel by boat, but they ended up at the same camps just like those who braved the seas.
The Orderly Departure Program from 1979 until 1994 helped to resettle refugees in the United States. In this program, refugees were asked to go back to Vietnam and waited for assessment. If they were deemed to be eligible to be re-settled in the US (according to criteria the US government had established), they would be allowed to immigrate.