October 10, 2013

Ban Thad: The last Vietnamese refugee camp at the Thailand-Cambodian border

In January 1988, Thai government decided to transport all  boat refugees  in Thailand to the Thailand-Cambodia border. In May 1988, the first 800 boat refugees were transferred from Sikiew, Songkhla, Panatnikhom to Ban Thad, a camp run by UNHCR built right next to Site 2 that housed Vietnamese Land refugeeand run by UNBRO.

In July 1988, Thai government decided that 31 August 1988 would be the cut-off date for interview, for both boat refugees at Ban Thad and for land refugees at Site 2. Those who were accepted would be transported to Panatnikhom, those  who got rejected or came after the cut-off date would stay in Ban Thad.

In September 1988, the boat refugees at Ban Thad had increased to 3,600.  The land refugee at site 2 was around 2,000, and the land refugees at Site 2 resisted being moved to Ban Thad for fear of being left behind in the interview process. They did not want to link their fate with boat refugees because of the rumor that Ban Thad was a close camp for boat people, no hope for resettlement.

"On the face of it this reluctance to go to Ban Thad seemed counter-intuitive. For nearly ten years, land Vietnamese  had been fighting for UNHCR recognition as refugees. Now it could be had in a new camp just a few hundred yards away and they were resisting. "(Robinson, Terms of Refugees, Page 97)

In January 1989, after protest, hunger strike, threat of suicide and self immolation, and the burning of Site 2 camp, about 1,000 land refugees entered Ban Thad. The remaining land refugees were determined to stay among the Khmer refugees, in hope of avoiding the close camp Ban Thad, but they eventually moved into Ban Thad one way or the other.   The movement of land Vietnamese into Ban Thad camp continued until Ban Thad itself was close in September 1990, its population moved to Panatnikhom for resettlement processing.

The last official Vietnamese refugee camp at the Thailand border had closed its door, beginning of the end of one of the biggest exodus in Vietnamese history.

(Detail information from Terms of Refugee, Courtland Robinson, 1998)

 We have not got any photos of Ban Thad from VNLR.  Please share your photos if you have them

Here's are some photos at Ban Thad refugee camp, courtesy of Tina Do, a former boat refugee who lived at Ban Thad. The entire album can be viewed here.

Photos courtesy of Tina Do


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