Boat People

The term "boat people" became a euphemism for Vietnamese refugees fleeing Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975. Although some of the refugees made their way to freedom overland through Laos and Cambodia into Thailand, most of them left in small boats hoping to make it to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, or the Philippines. Demographers now estimate that more than a million people fled Vietnam by boat, earning the title of "boat people." Their voyages were plagued with danger. Pirates in the South China Sea frequently victimized them, and Indonesia and Malaysia often rejected them even when they did make landfall. Tens of thousands drowned at sea. Perhaps 250,000 Vietnamese "boat people" died on the South China Sea from various causes, although exact figures are difficult to obtain.