HOF144: VU, Thuy Alexander

Sixteen-year-old Thuy Alexander Vu left Vietnam with his four siblings in 1979, in a boat carrying nearly 130 people. After six days at sea, as the boat approached the coast of Malaysia, Malaysian officials directed it to a deserted island where about 1,000 Vietnamese boat people had already landed. They had been misled into thinking the island was a refugee camp. After 10 days on the island, Malaysian authorities ordered Vu and her fellow passengers back on their boat. They took away their food and water as well as a compass and towed the boat to international waters. The passengers decided to continue on to Indonesia but were also told to turn back out to sea when they neared the shore. They received the same message from the coast guard in Singapore, and this time with the threat of gunfire. In desperation, the passengers decided to head back to Malaysia. They planned to break apart their boat so that the authorities would have no choice but to take them in.