POLITICAL REFUGEES WHO HELPED U.S. IN VIETNAM
WAR ARRIVE IN AMERICA
June 20, 1997 - 02:45 EDT
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Vietnamese refugees who helped
the United States
in the Vietnam War have arrived in America to begin
a new life after
former Green Berets campaigned for their asylum.
Several Green Berets greeted a group of 31 of the refugees
families as they arrived Thursday at San Francisco
Airport. Small American flags were handed to the Vietnamese,
of the ethnic group known as the Nung.
``Now, I am free and alive. I feel very happy,'' said
Tran Di Thoung.
One of the reunions involved a 96-year-old Nung woman
``It was a touching scene,'' said Don Climent, regional
the International Rescue Committee, a resettlement
extremely overjoyed to be here. These guys really owe
the Green Berets
a great debt.''
Another group of about 30 Nung were scheduled to arrive
today at Los
Angeles International Airport.
The former Vietnamese commandos were left behind when
the war ended in
1975. They fled to Hong Kong from 1989-91, and languished
camps until April, when a group of Green Berets pushed
Retired Army Col. Jack Isler, a former Green Beret,
led the fight to
get the Nung resettled. Nearly 1,000 veterans got involved
campaign of letters, phone calls and e-mails to Congress
and the White
``They were great soldiers and saved a lot of our guys,''
``So I went out on the Net and hollered for help.
``If they had been sent back to Vietnam, it would have
death,'' he added. ``And after July 1, the Chinese
have had them.''
As political refugees, the Nung will be eligible for
up to eight
months of welfare benefits.
``But I suspect our folks will go to work, not go on
assistance,'' said Climent, who added that many of
learned English in the Hong Kong detention centers.
The Nung, originally from China's southern Guangxi
served alongside French colonialists in Southeast Asia
and then with
Americans. They were praised for their loyalty and
However, when the North Vietnamese overran South Vietnam
in 1975, the
Nung were left behind in the ensuing chaos. In the
1980s, they joined
in the exodus of boat people to Hong Kong.
Three weeks ago, Republican Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of
New York wrote
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and said the
refugees would face
persecution if repatriated.
Nine of the Nung will live with family members in San
another eight will go to Sacramento. The rest will
be settled in North
Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.