Two Californians, moved by the plight of the Indochinese "boat people", are organizing an emergency airlift of six to eight tons of supplies to Vietnamese refugees in Malaysia.
The provisions -- mostly dehydrated food, drugs and tarpaulins -- are to be transported on a Boeing 707 scheduled to leave this week for Kuala Lumpur, where it will pick up refugees destined for resettlement in the United States.
The organizers are Richard M. Walden of Los Angeles and Llewellyn Werner of Sacramento.
Both strongly emphasize that their effort is "strictly a private person enterprise," undertaken without state or federal government backing.
The airlift, dubbed Operation California, is being planned with the cooperation of the American National Red Cross and its counterpart, the Malaysian Red Crescent Society.
Werner said the provisions are to be distributed by the MRCS to transit and beach camps in Malaysia currently holding an estimated 76,000 Vietnamese.
Werner and Walden, who hope to accompany the shipment, said that theirs is the first cargo of emergency supplies to be sent to the refugees in Malaysia from the United States.
The two have during the past two weeks quietly solicited donations from California corporations and individuals. In addition, the Vietnames community in Southern California -- estimated at 70,000 -- has been asked for supplies.
Airlines have donated drinking glasses, eating utensils and high-protein nuts. Pharmaceutical companies have supplied drugs to protect against cholera, malaria and dehydration. Other firms have contributed water containers, rice bowls and dehydrated vegetables. Plastic tarps will be provided as protection during the approaching summer monsoon season.
Waldlen said the expenses, expected to total between $10,000 and $12,000 will cover travel, fuel moving and storage.
The plane transporting the goods is being chartered by the Geneva-base Intergovernmental committee for European Migration, which has been flying out refugees from Kuala Lumpur to Travis Air Force base in northern California.
Walden and Werner said they believe if their effort is successful, it will demonstrate that private individuals can aid the refugees.
"Unfortunately, there is a noticeable resistance by government and the professionals in the refugee arena to private individuals striking out in a attempt to help," Werner said.