Vietnamese community remembers journey of boat people

Sydney (SBS News): Members of the Vietnamese Australian community have gathered at a candlelit vigil in Western Sydney, to remember the plight of boat people who fled after the Fall of Saigon in 1975.

More than 200 people lit candles outside a monument to Vietnamese boat people in Bankstown.

Speeches remembered the “courage and perseverance” of the more than 55,000 Vietnamese refugees who came to Australia over 40 years ago, fleeing communism.

Some speakers at the event raised the issue of current refugees seeking asylum, asking others to pray for those “stuck in detention centres” like those on Nauru and Manus Island.

Event organiser and President of the Vietnamese Community in Australia NSW Paul Nguyen told SBS News the annual event is looked forward to by many.

“People are thinking of the [older] people’s sacrifices in their search for freedom.

“Over 500,000 Vietnamese refugees have died at sea in search for freedom and democracy [in other countries] so for us it is all about paying tribute and thanking Australia for accepting us.”

Bankstown Major Khal Asfour told the crowd the contribution of Vietnamese migrants to Australian society is immense.

“It is a night for our community to give thanks for a new life in Australia,” Mr Asfour said.

“Bankstown continues to benefit from the unique culture that is the Vietnamese story.”

Cam Le was 10 years old when she fled Vietnam with her family by boat, the candlelit vigil providing an important opportunity for reflection.

“We had to risk our life to fight for freedom,” Ms Le told SBS News.

“I’m thinking about my cousin … People who died on the boat. A lot of people suffered, I’m the one who was lucky.”

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