Saturday, January 7, 2012

AGNES LEMAIRE * STORY OF THE BOAT PEOPLE





A TRUE STORY

"My 5 year old son whispered : - Water, I want water!... I hardly moved my hand, tried to caress his face comforting him : - Hold on for a while, I'll get you water, ok!...Then I fell unconscious. I did not know about the time, I heard that sound again : - I'm thirsty, I'm thirsty!...

That was the third day on the boat, we did not have anything to eat or drink. Couldn't stand it anymore, one man tried to drink seawater. As soon as it got into his stomach, he threw up everything and later on he was very sick.
The next day, children seemed very quiet and slept. Fortunately, dark clouds appeared in the sky and minutes later it was rain. People woke up immediately, we tried to drink as much as we could. Men looked for anything to use as containers to store water. We felt so much better, hoping lives returned!

It was still raining heavy and heavier, the boat started to flood. Then I heard some voices : - Oh no! the boat is going to sink, it's too much water, too heavy! We got so scared and started moving, making the boat unbalanced, seawater poured in it. We quickly threw some of our belongings away, bailed out the water as fast as we could. Finally, the rain stopped and water we saved for future use was all gone!!!

Two more days passed, everybody got weaker, no one moved or said a word! It was so quiet and peaceful! Suddenly, a man screamed : - I see a boat over there!... Like magic, we energetically got up and looked to where he pointed his finger. We saw a boat! Everybody was so grateful, we used all kinds of cloth, towel, t-shirt to wave and scream. The boat seemed like approaching us closer and closer but when we saw it clearly, we started to be afraid because there was a fishing boat with more than a dozen mean looking men, dark skin, carrying weapons and speaking Thai language strongly.



When that boat was next to ours, they signaled us to get on their boat, the little boat was empty. Some of them jumped on it starting to search our luggages, they took everything they liked! When they finished searching, we were returned back to our boat and they left.
Hours later, another boat appeared. When it got close to us, five men jumped on our boat and started searching again. They also took some clothes we were wearing. Then they told everybody look away, undressed two teenage girls and took turn raping them for hours. I was so terrified, held my son tightly in my arms and totally shook! We heard the girls cry for help, but we were helpless! What a shame!!! Later on, they left.






It was dark and silent! The girls stopped crying, we stayed numb, no speaking but " oh! God " was the only sound from anyone, sometimes!
Far away, the moon started to show up in the skyline, seawater reflected moonlight according to the waves and their sounds created a traumatic image.
Next morning, another boat came and repeated the same actions to the girls. We now had nothing to rob but women to rape!

Last boat came to us, the men were a bit kinder. They first gave us food, water and kept a brief distance from us. Until the next day, they began to rob carefully. They searched everyone's mouth, hair, underwear and everything. Then each of them picked one woman to rape!

By that time, I thought of my father who passed away years ago, I always believe that his spirit has watched over his children to protect them, and I prayed to him. When the guy picked me I was shaking, my son cried, tried to pull me with his little weak hands. I did not cry but showed the fear on my face! That somehow touched his feeling, he released me...
After finishing the actions, everybody got on their boat, they sank our boat, took us to the Kho Kra island and they left.

We felt much better! At least not to die in the ocean. That was a small, beautiful island with green trees, a little stream ran across the mountains through the forest, white sand beach and blue waves.
We were weak and tired, some of us went to get water, others lay on the ground, the two teenagers seemed very ill. Then we went to clean ourselves in water with clothes on and wore wet clothes afterward. We absolutely had nothing but empty hands!


When the night came, we gathered closer, felt the heat from each other and slept on the ground.
Around noon the next day, another boat showed up. We, women were so afraid running to hide under bushes, between rocks, in small caves. Did not matter if there were snakes, spiders, scorpions... Then they kept returning to look for women day after day.
Later on, the Thai Navy showed up, they brought us some food and drink, also told us that they would rescue us soon.

Three days before I left the island, the fishermen brought in another group was about 30 people. A young man got burned his entire body, he lay unconscious on the ground. Then I saw a man sitting on the rock far away from the group looking out at the ocean. I came to him trying to make friends, and found out that his girlfriend was abducted!

We left the island after being there for a week, taken to the refugee camp in Songkla, South Thailand. Staying in Songkla for a while, I had been told many horrible stories of the journeys, the high price to pay for freedom. Also learned that Kho Kra island was the hide out of the fishermen where they tortured, raped, and killed many people.

Coming to the USA in July 1981, three months later I got a letter from my sister to inform that my older brother, his wife and two children left Vietnam a few weeks ago. I was happy that I would reunite them, also worried for them on their way.

But I did not wait too long for the bad news, he was killed on the boat just two days after leaving Vietnam, left behind a wife and two boys, a 5 year old and an 8 month.

My heart ached! I surely imagined how he lost his life although I did not witness the incident.
In early 1982, I got another letter from my father-in-law telling me that his 12 year old son left the country recently. I could not describe the opposite feelings inside of me by knowing that.
However, I never get any news, good or bad from him. The entire boat disappeared! I tried to contact the families whose relatives were on that boat, but they knew nothing, like me still waiting and waiting.... for the news!!!


We have been waiting for that boat for 18 years, but the boat has gone forever! No one knows the truth of its disappearance.


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