Indochinese fleeing Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are virtually unwanted in other Asian countries, according to a General Accounting Office report released yesterday.
The report, presented to the House subcommittee on Asian and Pacific affairs, urged the United Nations to set up refugee resettlement camps "on islands in the South China Sea or at other locations in the Far East to reduce the visibility of the refugee populations . . . and to relieve the pressures of the large refugee populations in first-asylum countries."
Nations now serving as countries of first asylum - those initally receiving the refugees - include Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines and Japan.
Nearly 147,000 of the refugees are in camps in Thailand, about 51,000 are in Malaysian camps, and 20,000 are surviving in camps scattered throughout the remaining first-asylum countries, the report said.
J. Kenneth Fasick, director of GAO's international division, told the subcommittee that "the asylum countries feel they are being expected to bear an unfair burden of what should be a worldwide humanitarian relief effort. In all of these countries, there is a deep-seated hostility to the Vietnamese settlement in any numbers."
Fasick cited these examples:
Thailand regards the refugee population "as a possible irritant to its people" and as a potentially disruptive force in its political relationships with the neighboring countries of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
Malaysia sees an influx of boat refugees, mainly ethnic Chinese fleeing Vietnam for mostly economic reasons, "as potentially disrupting its delicate Malay-Chinese racial balance and its future relations with Vietnam."
Singapore feels strongly that it is undermining its no-refugees policy by providing temporary asylum to boat refugees rescued off its shores.
Hong Kong feels it can't handle Vietnamese refugees simultaneously with an influx of people from the People's Republic of China.
Indonesia fears growing racial and political tensions resulting from an influx of ethnic Chinese fleeing Vietnam.
Fasick said that only the United States, France, Australia, and Canada "have appreciably helped relieve the burden" on the Asian countries of first asylum. For example, according to Fasick and figures in the report, the United States has admitted 187,000 Indochinese refugees for permanent resettlement since the fall of South Vietnam in 1975.
About 46,670 Indochinese refugees have resettled in France since that time, 16,336 have gone to Australia and 10,531 have gone to Canada, according to the report.
The United States, which played a dominant role in the Vietnam war, is "committed to admitting" an additional 25,000 Indochinese refugees a year "over the next few years," the GAO report said.