Press Conference Statement (2) by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Penang on Monday, 30th April 1990 at 11 a.m.
Kit Siang faxes a message to Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, asking for a full briefing to DAP MPs on the international furore and allegations that Malaysia had pushed Vietnamese boat people back to sea and violated international refugee agreements
I have today faxed a message to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, asking for a full briefing to DAP MPs on the international furore and allegations that Malaysia had pushed Vietnamese boat people back to sea and violated international refugee agreements.
In my fax to the Prime Minister, I also extended the DAP’s offer to help the government in an international campaign to counter such allegations if there is no truth in them.
The growing international criticisms against Malaysia’s refugee policy is a matter which should concern all Malaysians, especially as it may become on an anti-Malaysia campaign in trade and tourism in the United States and Europe.
Up to now, those who had protested against the Malaysian government for pushing back Vietnamese boat people to the sea, and violating Malaysia’s international commitment to give first asylum to the refugees, are:
* The United States Government;
*United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR);
* United States Committee for Refugees; and
* Washington-based Refugees International.
In the past fortnitght, there had been escalating international criticism of Malaysia’s ‘push-back’ policy in the international press, which had been carrying fairly detailed reports about the plight of the Vietnamese boat people who had been pushed back to sea.
These criticisms could be summarized as follows:
1. In June 1989, Malaysia chaired the International Conference on Indo-Chinese Refugees in Geneva, and signed the seven-point Integrated Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) pledging to offer first asylum to the Vietnamese boat people.
2. Since May last year, Malaysia had turned away more than 5,000 Vietnamese boat people. Since February, Malaysian marine police have blockaded the country’s main refugee camp on Pulau Bidong to prevent refugee boats from landing.
3. U. S. State Department spokesman Margaret Tutwiler said two weeks ago that the U. S. Government had ‘vigorously protested the denial of first asylum to Vietnamese at all appropriate levels of the Malaysian government’ and that at least four Vietnamese ‘have perished as a result of Malaysia’s actions.’ President Bush is reported to have protested to Dr. Mahathir on Malaysia’s ‘push-back’ policy.
4. In his testimony on the Vietnamese boat-people to a United States Senate Sub-committee last month, the U.S. Committee for Refugees submitted: “The pushback figures document those who have arrived safely in Indonesia. There is no way of knowing how many boats never reached land again. Given the new rash of pirate violence in the southern Gulf of Thailand, and the inherent risks of ocean travel in small boats, it is hard to imagine that the death toll is not higher than six.”
5. Refugee officials allege that Malaysia’s push-back actions put the boat people at greater risk, because of dangerous towing of sometimes rickety refugee boats and not all boat people are being as completely reprovisioned before being forced back to sea. There have been allegation of Malaysian naval and marine police craft towing Vietnamese boat people for up to 36 hours, after refusing permission to land. There were also allegations of dangerous fast towing, and refugee officials said there were reports of boatpeople screaming in terror as they were towed through high seas.
6. Allegations that there were at least three secret detention forest camps in Malaysia where Vietnamese boat people were kept, in one case, for up to three months, before they were towed out to sea.
The government ad country must take a serious view of these mounting international criticism of Malaysia’s ‘push-back’ policy on the Vietnamese boat-people, and why Malaysia’s repeated denials of such push-backs had not made any impact or impression.
If the government does not take immediate action to deal with the mounting international attacks on Malaysia’s Vietnamese boatpeople policy, it could have adverse effects on Malaysia’s trade and tourism. This is why the DAP MPs are asking the Prime Minister for a full briefing on this issue.