HOF149: Tran Chi Hieu
In the last months of the Vietnam war, Tran Chi Hieu was a troop commander and officer in the Vietnamese navy, patrolling the network of canals and tributaries in the Mekong Delta and fending off Communist incursions in the countryside. On the day the government of South Vietnam surrendered, Tran was invited to join a fellow officer on a boat with enough supplies to reach Thailand. He couldn’t bear the thought of abandoning the soldiers who reported to him, so he passed up the opportunity.
Tran was sent to a re-education camp in the years that followed. Along with other detainees, he farmed shrimp, built roads and dug ditches. He felt lucky that his camp was in the south. It was close enough for family members to visit and bring provisions every now and then, and he was living among locals who were more inclined to look favourably upon the detainees. After his release, he realized that outside the re-education camp, the freedom he longed for no longer existed. Tran used his seafaring knowledge to help plan an escape route for his in-laws. Then, a year later, he used that same route to get his family safely to a refugee camp on Indonesia’s Kuku Island. He eventually immigrated in Canada where his in-laws had resettled.