Dozens of Amerasian children arrived in Thailand on New Year’s Eve to prepare for resettlement in America under new arrangements that ended a long dispute between the United States and Vietnam.
The children and their relatives carried small American flags as they arrived from Ho Chi Minh City. They were the first group of Amerasians to leave under a revived Orderly Departure Program, which Vietnam agreed to resume in September after having interrupted it since January, 1986.
The Vietnamese are to be processed in Bangkok, then moved to a camp in the Philippines for about six months of language study and cultural orientation.
At a welcoming ceremony, William A. Brown, U.S. ambassador to Thailand, said: “This is going to be a very exciting new year for you and your new homeland as you get to know its people . . . and its language.”
He presented two of the half-American children, Pham Hung Huy, 14, and Le Thi Thao Ly, 17, with a picture book entitled “All-America: The Catalogue of Everything American.”
They were among 65 Amerasians and 91 relatives who were to arrive on four flights today, which also carried 217 other Vietnamese joining relatives in the United States under the program. Amerasians were fathered by U.S. servicemen and civilians during America’s decade and a half of military involvement in Vietnam, which ended with a 1973 pullout.
“Maybe I’ll meet my father, and I’d be very happy,” Huy said as he waited at the Bangkok airport terminal with his mother, Pham Thi Tri. They were watching a videotape of American cartoons.
Tri said she was four months pregnant when her boyfriend, a U.S. serviceman, finished his tour of duty and left Vietnam in 1972. They have lost contact since.
Ly said she knew nothing about her parents. She was abandoned in a hospital and was adopted when she was three days old by two Vietnamese, Nguyen Thi Xuan and Le Van Giang, with whom she is resettling in America.
Tears rolled down Ly’s face when she was asked how other children treated her in Ho Chi Minh City.
“When I go to school they tease me. I feel ashamed,” she said. “They say: ‘You Amerasian. Why don’t you go home? Why do you stay here?’ ”