Malaysia has rejected the American-initiated plan to resettle more refugees as insufficient and will continue to turn back the Vietnamese "boat people" until it receives ironclad assurances that ultimately none will be left on Malaysian shores, a high government official said today.
Home Minister Mohammed Ghazall Shafie said in an interview that a recent promise by the United States and other countries to accept more refugees "does not help" because it does not guarantee eventual resettlement of all those who land in Malaysia.
Until that pledge is given, he said, the Malaysian naval cordon will continue to turn away Vietnamese boats.
He was responding to appeals by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who last week asked Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries to ease their policies and grant temporary saylum to the boat people while new international resettlement plans are developed.
American officials had assumed there would be no immediate public change in Malaysian policy but had hoped that the government would quietly begin granting asylum.
Reliable sources here said there is no indication that is happening. A strengthened Navy cordon continues to turn boats away. In addition, the government is buisly repairing and building boats to take away those several thousand who in recent weeks managed to slip ashore and who are being held in isolated enclaves on Malaysia's eastern beaches, those sources said.
It appears unlikely that any change of policy would be adopted at least until after the Un.N.-sponsored refugees conference at Geneva on July 20 and 21. And Ghazali indicated today that he will present at Geneva a refugee plan substantially different from that being pursued by the United States and other governments.
Ghazali said he will propose that all Vietnamese wishing to leave be settled temporarily in several camps to be established in Vietnam under U.N. supervision.They would live there until sorted out for permanent resettlement in other countries.
The United States has been cool to such plans, believing that many Vietnamese wanting to escape would be fearful of stepping forward under the Vietnamese government's surveilance and volunteering to go to U.N. camps. Many thousands would continue to ship out illegally, Washington has cautioned, leaving as big a problem as before.
Ghazali countered that objection today by pledging that his government would accept such "illegal" escapees briefly and return them directly to the U.N. camps in Vietnam.
Ghazali said he discussed that plan with representatives from Vietnam last week but has received no response. He also said he doubts that the United States and other countries will accept it. Despite their protestations of humanitarian concern, he said, those countries still are not prepared to resettle nearly a million refugees who might come out of Vietnam under his proposal.
The United Nations and Vietnam have tentatively agreed already on a limited plan to bring out refugees in an orderly manner. Ghazali rejected that plan as insufficient, saying it would limit to too small a number those elibible for resettlement. It would still leave many thousands trying to ship out secretly and seek haven in Malaysia, he said.
The United States has been pushing a separate plan that calls for temporary transit centers on islands in Indonesia and the Philippines. Ghazali said today he doubts that would work unless those two countries and Malaysia are promised eventual resettlement elsewhere for every single refugee.
"There must be no residue left here," he insisted.
The home minister said he had made that point to Americans several times but got no such promise.
"They are just mute on that," he said.
U.S. State Department officials expressed optimism last week that a series of new international measures would induce countries in this region to relax their policies of turning away refugees.
Those included a U.S. commitment to double its monthly intake to 14,000, a promise by industrial nations at the recent Tokyo summit to increase aid significantly, and Japan's promise of more financial assistance to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
Ghazali said today promises of an increased "intake" of refugees were not sufficient, partly, he said, because prior promises have not been kept.
He said the United States promised late last year to take 4,000 a month from U.N.-supervised camps here, which should have meant that 24,000 would be moved out in the first six months of 1979. But only 14,726 were actually taken, he said.
"So that means that about 10,000 are now languishing there, taking up space, eating the food," Ghazali added. "Why is that? I asked and I was told that they [the Americans] do not have the sponsors, they do not have the money. It appears they would rather let them languish in Bidong and that makes us very angry."
Bidong is the small Malaysian island now holding a majority of the 74,000 refugees who have been admitted to U.N.-sponsored camps in this country.
The Malaysian government this week has been under severe pressure to take even stronger steps to exclude refugees at a meeting of the ruling political alliance, the United Malays National Organization. Young members pushed for tougher measures and one faction intended to stage a large protest at the American Embassy here, but was dissuaded by threats of arrests from the Home Ministry.