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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 August 2005, 19:00 GMT 20:00 UK
Last boat person leaves Malaysia
By Jonathan Kent
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

Memorial to the boat people
Malaysia bore the brunt of the Vietnamese exodus
The UN refugee agency has said that the last of the boat people who took shelter in Malaysia following Vietnam's 1975 reunification has returned home.

Malaysia was one of the countries that bore the brunt of the exodus, taking in more than 250,000 people.

It was a quiet ending to a turbulent episode in the region's history.

The UNHCR says the plan that helped 240,000 people resettle in third countries and 9,000 return home is a model for subsequent operations.

Common story

A small group of friends waved as Doan Van Viet boarded a plane at Kuala Lumpur's glitzy international airport and headed back to a country he had not seen in more than 20 years.

Vietnamese boat people (archive picture)
Most of the boat people have now resettled elsewhere

It was something of a contrast to his arrival in 1984, when his boat washed up on the shores of Bidong Island, a camp for refugees on peninsular Malaysia's east coast.

The first Vietnamese arrived in May 1975 - 47 people in a battered boat. More than a quarter of a million followed.

Mr Van Viet's story was that of many. He says he spent months in prison in Vietnam because the authorities suspected of him of helping others to escape.

Eventually, fearing for his life, he took that very route and made a new start in Malaysia, learning English, Malay and Cantonese, and training as an auto mechanic.

But for Doan Van Viet it was not a plan that led him home, but love.

He intends to marry a Vietnamese woman who arrived illegally two years ago and his return to Vietnam will allow them to wed legally.



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