Refugee Camps: Part Two

Just when my stepfather and mother were starting to save money and send for us, they were thrown in jail for illegally entering Thailand. The men and women were seperated.  My stepfather was led away in wrist and ankle chain with the other men like herds of cattle.  My mom was thrown in the cell with other women.  She would not see my stepfather again until a month later when they would appear in front of the judge who would decide their fate.

During the month that my mom was seperated from my stepfather, she was kept busy knitting fishing nets. She said she was lucky that she knew how to knit and weave because the other women who couldn’t do that had to go shovel human waste from the pits.   

After a month had passed it was time for my mom and stepdad to go in front of the judge along with some of the other prisoners.  When my mom got there to the courtroom, she looked for my dad, but couldn’t see him so she ask if my stepdad was on the list to appear in front of the judge that day. The Thai officer asked for my stepdad’s name and sure enough he was on the list.  So, my mom looked around the courtroom again and finally located my stepdad.  She didn’t recognize him because he had lost a lot of weight and they had shaved his head.  My mom was speechless and saddened to see my stepdad humiliated like that.  In a matter of months he went from being a Sub-Lientenant in the Laos army to a lowly prisoner in the Thai prison where he was the one under the control of the prison guard instead of the one giving orders.

My mom and stepdad had no choice but to stand there and remain silent as the judge accused all the refugees in the courtroom of being Communist who wanted nothing more than to turn Thailand into a communist country.  The judge said all the refugees (Cambodians, Vietnamese, and Laotians) were bad for the country and that they needed to be sent back to where they came from.  He said it was not up to Thailand to take care of the refugees and that it was not up to them to be concern for the safety and welfare of these criminals.  After the judgement was passed down, the refugees were readied to be transported to one of the border city of Thailand.  Once there, the refugees were let loose to make their own way to their individual country with the threat of dire consequences if they were to sneak back to Thailand.  That pronouncement was not enforced.  My mom said since there were not many Thai authorities to enforce the ruling, many refugees went back to Thailand as in the case of my mom and stepfather.  They borded the bus to take them back to where they were living (in kamalied or khamalid Nonaly) which was a hundred miles away from the border of Thailand and Laos.

Once back in Kamalaid, they went back to their rented house, their jobs.  My mom continue selling sweets and doing laundry.  My dad continue using the sam lor as a taxi to make money. Fortunately, for my parents, my dad had made friends with one of the Thai police officer.  The officer helped my dad out by telling the other officers that my mom and dad are good hard working people and that they are not there to make trouble. The police left them alone this time. My parents steadily save a little money here and there.  About three months after they got out of jail, my mom sent word to my grandma to get us ready to cross over to Thailand.   We were living in Laos with our grandmother in Donkayang (closest pronunciation I can translate from what my mom told me). This city is close to the Thai border on the other side of the Mekong. 

My mother and stepfather asked a friend who was familiar with the borders of Laos and Thai to bring us across to the rendevous place.  My sister, Paramy, Khonsavanh, and I were living with my grandma close to the borders of Laos and Thailand, but my older brother was living with my great grandfather at the Wat, closer to Pakse.  So my parents had to first make arrangements for my great grandfather to bring my older brother to where my sisters and I were. Once we were all together, everything was set except there would be one less person on the trip.  My older sister Paramy, fell ill and died about two or three months before we were supposed to leave.  My grandmother did not send word to my mom to let her know so my mom was expecting four children to show up at the border not three. The death of my sister came as a shock to my mom because my grandmother did not prepare her ahead of time.   It took years for my mom to forgive my grandmother for not bringing us to her sooner.  My grandmother had become attached to us. As a result, the first time my mom had told my grandmother to get ready to take us because she was sending someone to guide her across, my grandmother said she needed a little more time to get ready.  My mom told me that if my grandmother had taken us the first time she had asked, maybe my older sister would have still been alive.

By the time we cross over to Thailand, it was 1975.  I was four years old, my little sister Khonsavanh was three, my sister Paramy would have been five, and my older brother was six.  We were ready to start a new life in the refugee camp as  a family. With the birth of my little brother, we begun a new chapter in our lives.

One thought on “Refugee Camps: Part Two

  1. Pingback: Refugees » Refugee Camps: Part Two

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