Frank Moan is a man deeply dedicated to the welfare of refugees and enjoys the respect of all of us who share those concerns. He has missed the mark, however, in his recent article on the current refugee crisis in Southeast Asia {op-ed, Aug. 8}.

Father Moan suggests normalization of U.S.-Vietnamese relations as a means to end the refugees' plight, stating: ''Vietnam will have to make its own concessions. Among these will be the improvement of basic human rights among its people and an end to its political persecution of those who do not belong to 'approved' families.'' Certainly, these should be goals of United States policy toward Vietnam.

Professor Nguyen Ngoc Huy, a distinguished leader of the struggle for a free Vietnam, whose recent death in Paris leaves us all poorer, called for similar human rights conditions to be attached to any discussion of normalization. Among others, he called for freedom of religion, including full control of the policy and operation of religious institutions by ecclesiastical authorities; freedom of charitable and social welfare activities, including the right of religious organizations to receive and administer assistance from foreign private charitable donors; release of political prisoners and respect for their civil rights if they choose not to emigrate; respect for the rights of ethnic and tribal groups and freedom of information, including from free and open international sources. These are really not very extreme conditions these days. The reality is: Malaysia is turning back innocent men, women and children to the open sea (more than 8,000 boat people last year). The ASEAN foreign ministers, at their Ministerial Conference in Jakarta on July 24, reaffirmed that coordinated push-offs by all first asylum states remains a conscious policy option. If the situation remains unchanged, coordinated push-offs may well occur, and in such a case thousands will drown.

Though many advocates and Vietnamese Americans urge a regional refugee holding center, the real point is to find an acceptable interim solution as an alternative to push-offs or forceable repatriation. If there are other possibilities that might leave the refugees temporarily in place in first asylum camps, this could be even better. Concerned nations must seek to reestablish the pattern of accommodation and cooperation that has worked in the past and seek together a viable and humane interim solution to avoid the loss of lives that are now so threatened. SHEP LOWMAN Arlington

The writer is former president of Refugees International.