Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ex-Pulau Bidong Workers

by Rosli Mohamad
  • Objective of the association
  • Who’s Who
After the Vietnam War, thousands of Vietnamese fled their homeland on small boats. They are known as Vietnamese Boat People. Some 250,000 found refuge on a Malaysian island of Pulau Bidong. Most of them was accepted into the third countries but some was laid to rest on the sandy island.
Now……14 years later, a group of ex-workers who had been working tirelessly to provide to the needs of these refugees during their stay in the island had formed a association that can help the ex-refugees to :
  • Locate specific person grave sites
  • Obtain copies of records and documents
  • View numerous photo of daily life and activities on the island and many others.
Pulau Bidong is one of the many beautiful islands located in Terengganu, east coast states of peninsular Malaysia. Legend has it that the island was a home of an elderly childless couple who live in isolation away from others. After their demise, the island is uninhabited until in 1978 when it was converted into a refugee camp for the Vietnamese Boat People, after the temporary camp at Pulau Besar in Merang could no longer accommodate the increasing number of refugees arrival since the first landing in May 1975.
Since 1978 till 1991, Pulau Bidong refugee camp had accommodated more than 250,000 Vietnamese refugees together with a small number of Cambodian refugees. To ensure the safety of the refugees in the island, security personnel like Police and RELA( Voluntary Security Unit) was stationed there. Administration and management from Malaysian Red Crescent Society ( MRCS ) with the assistance from UNHCR and International Social Workers from USA, Japan, France, Australia, England, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines , etc. During their stay in Pulau Bidong, the refugees are given all their basic facilities and requirements such as food, clothing, education, health care, employment, training and sport and recreation. This is to ensure that they are knowledgeable and ready when the time has come for them to be accepted into the third countries. Facilities and arrangement are also being made available to enable the refugees to celebrate all the festivals that they are accustomed to celebrating. All this facilities was made available to help the refugees to cope with live away from the love ones and the agony of waiting to be accepted into the third country. Pulau Bidong Camp was officially closed on 30th October 1991.
14 years after the closure of the camp. We, the ex-workers of the island had a chance to revisited Pulau Bidong together with a group of ex-Vietnamese refugees from Australia and USA in March 2005. We are delighted to meet again with old acquaintance the like of sister Joan, sister Maureen and other ex-refugees who are together with us in the trip. As we approached and the island become clear in sight, a combination of feeling begin to surface….happy, sad and our heart start beating faster. Nostalgic memories flash before our very eyes. We arrive and set foot yet again on your white sandy beach…..oh beautiful island which was once our home and our place of work. An island that leave us with priceless memories and we believe that what we felt are also felt by the others ex-refugees of Pulau Bidong Camp especially those who come back to visit the island. As if we can still hear the voice of the children playing, the teachers and the students, the Supply staff busy with their daily chores, a sweet melody from the Coffee Shop……and the beautiful voices of the ladies working at the Announcement Section…calling and announcing some daily activities at Pulau Bidong.
We are happy but yet sad to see the remained of our office….a place where we once work and grow into maturity to understand the meaning of life, sharing our feeling and experience, good and bad, happiness and sadness….together with the refugees and the other social workers from all over the world like one big happy family. We left Pulau Bidong with a thousand and one memories….we missed the popular parting song of ” Ngay Mai Em Di “. We wish to see Pulau Bidong back to its ” Lively Self…..visited and inhabited”. Arise from the deep feeling of Love, together with our colleague, we had made a commitment to unite and work together to form an association comprise of all ex-workers of Pulau Bidong Camp, to be the reference point on anything with regards to the Vietnamese and Cambodia refugees connection with Malaysia especially Pulau Bidong. This is in line with our Terengganu State Government intention of making Pulau Bidong as a “Heritage Tourism Island “….thus on August 2005 , ” Pulau Bidong Ex-Workers Association” was officially launched.
The Pulau Bidong Ex-Workers Association was established in August 2005 at the following address:
492 Losong Dato Amar
21000 Kuala Terengganu
E-mail :
Tel: 013-9317165

The association members comprise of ex-MRCS workers and private personal who were working at the camp in Pulau Bidong.

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