HOF098: Thongsouk Vongphackdy

Thongsouk Vongphackdy was born in Vientiane, Laos where he lived with his grandparents, parents, sister and two brothers. His childhood experience was a pleasant one. His mother cared for the family and his father was a driver for the American Embassy. As a young adult, he studied languages and foreign dialects to become a schoolteacher. During the early 1970s, he was a primary school teacher for three years in Vientiane. After continuing his studies, he became a high school teacher and supervisor of students living in the dormitory until 1977.

In 1974, the economic and social regime began to change under the Communist regime. By 1977, Thongsouk became concerned for his Thai spouse and their young daughter and decided to leave Laos. He left the country first. He and his cousin reached the Mekong River in June 1978. They found some inner tubes that they used to swim to the Thai shore where a farmer welcomed them and offered shelter for the night. The following day, the farmer led them to the local police who detained them for one night and delivered them to the nearby Nong Khai refugee camp. After he settled in the camp, his spouse visited the Thai Embassy and requested her repatriation to her native country. Her request was approved.

Thongsouk remained in Nong Khai while his spouse settled in a nearby village and worked as a hairdresser. She and her daughter eventually joined him in the camp, and they applied for asylum. While in the refugee camp, Thongsouk helped many refugees complete their applications to foreign countries. After eight months, he applied to settle in Canada. They eventually found a home in Toronto where they were sponsored by the federal government.