The Malaysian Red Crescent Society yesterday prepared to load food, water and medicine aboard a freighter crammed with 2,500 Vietnamese refugees and the government backed off from a threat to tow the vessel into international waters.
A spokesman for the relief society, the Moslem world's Red Cross, said the organization plans to deliver about 10 tons of rice, several sacks of sugar and a few hundred boxes of milk, canned food and medicine today for the passengers of the 1,500 ton Hai Hong.
Refugees have been crowded on the cargo vessel's deck for more than a week as Malaysia has refused to allow them to disembark, despite protests from the United States, Canada and France. Malaysia believes the refugees bought their way out of Vietnam.
Representatives of the three Western nations met with Malaysian authorities here to discuss what to do with the refugees, most of them ethnic Chinese who fled southern Vietnam. France and Canada have offered to take some of the refugees, but it is still unclear what commitment, if any, the United States has made. Attorney General Griffin Bell has begun meeting with congressional leaders to discuss expanding the current quota of Indochinese refugees to accommodate some of the Hai Hong's passengers.