HOF057: Oudong Vongsouneth / Thepouthith Vongsouneth

Outhith Vongsouneth and her sister were born in the Province of Xekong in the south of Laos. They were the daughters of a military family. Their mother was a vice principal at a local school. They had 3 other sisters and a brother.

Once the Communists occupied Laos in 1975, their parents became more and more concerned for the safety of the family. They wondered about job security, food rationing, the unstable currency as well as the new government’s restrictive social and economic policies.

In the fall of 1975, their parents began to plan the family’s escape from Laos. Finally in early 1980, they woke up their children in the middle of the night and instructed them to pack a few belongings. In preparation for their departure, their mother dressed them in the clothing typical of rural inhabitants in order to avoid attention. They walked for several hours and reached the Mekong River. They paid smugglers to take them across in a small boat to the shores of Thailand.

In Thailand, they were apprehended and threatened by Thai soldiers. The soldiers discovered that their father was a Green Beret. At that point, they directed the family to a local police station. The police took them to the Nong Khai refugee camp. During their stay in the camp, Canadian immigration officials hired their father as an interpreter while their mother sold small items in order to make some money.

The family had applied for refugee status with several countries and settled on Canada as their final destination. They were sent to Bangkok in preparation for their trip to Canada. They were flown to CFB Longue-Pointe in Montreal, Quebec.

Their first days in Canada were difficult, as they needed to adapt to the military camp’s strict conditions, the winter weather and the language barriers. The family eventually embraced their new community and went on to thrive in their adopted country.