Monday, April 20, 2009

Thai Pirates - Crime of Opportunity

During the 1980's Viet Nam went through a period of ethnic cleansing during which time Vietnamese people who had ethnic Chinese roots were encouraged to leave the country. These refugees were the so-called "boat people".  Though statistics are not precise, they numbered between 500,000 and 600,000.

The boats they sailed in were essentially "floating junk" and they were inevitably overcrowded and once at sea, those onboard found they didn't take enough food or water with them. They were vulnerable in every sense of the word. Some people took what wealth they had in the form of gold and silver "thin ingots" often called "taels", though a tael is a measurement of weight. 

Thai fisherman, in an effort to separate these people from their money and to take women as slaves or for their own purposes from the ships turned to piracy in large numbers. CLICK HERE  -- and HERE for more information. The lucky women were sold as sex slaves in brothels in Thailand. The unlucky ones were used, and were tossed into the waves. The links provided above, document people who didn't make it, and of the ships that were not sunk (if they sank we have no record of them) also document the number of times they were attacked (by different pirates).

There was no cry from the international community because there was nothing to ransom and no nation wanted to take responsibility for the refugees they saved. 
As a footnote: The USS Dubuque LPD-8 (above)  (CLICK HERE) did not stop and render aid to a Vietnamese refugee boat in the South China Sea. The refugees resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. 58 people were died/eaten by other passengers. The commanding officer, Captain Alexander Balian, USN was relieved of command of his ship, but claimed that he was acting under standing orders not to assist refugees on the high seas. I suspect that his claim was sincere and that there was a policy in place.


Azra said...

Wow...shocking! 58 dead because of cannibalism? I'm thinking I'd rather starve to death.

LL said...

Azra, I think that some of the cannibalism took place after the people died of exposure, hunger, etc. I don't think it was the mass slaughter sort of cannibalism. All the same, it's shocking and horrible.

And it shocks the conscience that military ships did not see fit to stop and render aid (food and water at the very least).

Anonymous said...

I was in the Navy during these assistance operations. There was a Presidential Order (Carter) to only provide food, water, compasses, and point them in the direction of the nearest land - a death decree if ever there was one. There was one caveat though, if refugees were "in the water" we were to rescue them. On more than one occassion, we came upon refugees and they would start jumping in the seas when we approached. They were rescued and helicoptered to the Philippines. I guess not every one got the word.

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