Skip to the main content

Becoming a Refugee

By Sea or Land: Refugees or Displaced Persons?
Van-Nha Tran

Time 3:23


(This video is only available in French; the transcript has been translated from French.)

Yes, that's it. Since we, we, we learned that, uhm, the—by ocean, directly from Vietnam, it's a lot more difficult, because it's uhm, it's the pirates, the, uhm, it's the? the China Sea, it's the sea to the east of Vietnam, that's a lot of movement, so it's—but we left the country in small boats, you might say rowboats. So, uhm, about? like, in the case of our rowboat, it was only 10? 10 meters long and three meters wide, but we fit about 33 people in it. So, uhm, that's? that's why we, uhm, first took the road by land from? from Vietnam to Cambodia. So, uh, from? from Cambodia, we were going to use the rowboat to go to Thailand. It's easier. So, that's why we? we? I left Vietnam on January 21st 1988. Yes, it's true, so January 26 is the anniversary of my marriage. I? I got to Thailand by boat, but from Cambodia to Thailand. So, it's, that's how—we had an other problem at that point, the? the, uhm? at that time, to be a refugee over there, they said only people who arrived by boat that? that were considered refugees. On the other hand, people who arrived by land, like crossing the border between Cambodia and Thailand, they were not considered refugees. They called them, like, displaced persons. And if they are displaced persons, they can't be refugees. So, that's why we, uhm? the camp? in the camp, because I was the leader of a one thousand person neighborhood— we made a petition stating that—explaining to them that, how can we get to the camp? It's? it's? it's? that's not why we made the distinction between refugees and displaced persons. Because we have to save our lives? our lives first. How to find a better way to get to the camp? that's? it's up to us. But if we can prove that we were persecuted in our country, at that point, we can be refugees. So, in our case, it's like I explained that time, in school, I had no problems, but as the? the parish choir leader, sometimes the local government did some... It would make things difficult for us, I guess. Yes.

Oral History 15.12.09VNT with Van-Nha Tran
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

Click image to see the full size photo.