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'Thai Crackdown on Refugees Defended'

April 03, 1988

I noted with interest but some concern your report of my meeting with the representatives of the Vietnamese-American community in Orange County about the current boat refugee crisis in Thailand ("Thai Crackdown on Refugees Defended," Feb. 29).

Unfortunately, there was one critical omission and one misinterpretation that rather radically misrepresent my position.

You reported correctly that I believe substantial blame for the crisis must be placed on the Vietnamese government as well as my feeling that a more restrictive U.S. resettlement program has added to the problem.

What is missing is my position that the present Thai practice of turning refugee boats back to sea is totally unacceptable. We must try to understand Thailand's problems and work with them through quiet diplomacy. The present situation cannot continue.

You also report that I suggested that arriving boat people be placed in special camps for as long as three years before being allowed to resettle.

I did not recommend this, although I did note that the Thais might hold arriving refugees for fairly lengthy periods to reduce the outflow from Vietnam. If they do this, we should understand their concern and work with them to achieve the most humane solution possible.


U.S. Committee for Refugees


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