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The Star

Tuesday April 25, 2006

 

Old graves to draws tourist. Ex-Vietnamese refugees raise funds to restore burial sites

KUAlA TERENGGANU :
The 1,000-odd graves of Vietnamese refugees in the country will soon become a tourist attraction.

A local tour operator is working with overseas Vietnamese communities to restore and spruce up the graves.

Ping Anchorage Travel and Tours Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Alex Lee said there were more than 1,000 Vietnamese graves in Kota Baru, Bachok, Pulau Bidong, Kuala Terengganu, Dungun, Kuantan, Mersing and Cheras.

"Many former Vietnamese refugees and their relatives are already visiting the country to pray for the departed souls of their beloved ones.

"Once all the graves have been restored with tombstones and spruced up, it will become a new tourist product,"

Lee said after a group of 20 Vietnamese from Western Australia prayed at the Vietnamese graves located at the Hokkien cemetery in jalan Pusara here yesterday.

Archive of Vietnamese Boat People director Dong Tran said 108 single graves and six mass graves in jalan Pusara were spruced up recently.

He said the RM50,000 cost was borne by Vietnamese people who resettled in Western Australia through a fund-raising drive.

"We are planning to launch another fund in June to raise RM1mil to restore and spruce up the Vietnamese refugees' graves in Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines by end of the year.

"We also plan to mark out Vietnamese graves in Pulau Tenggol off Dungun and Pulau Tengah off Mersing," he said.

The six mass graves at jalan Pusara include 19 people who died in Pulau Bidong after mistakenly consuming a poisonous snake soup in 1977.

One contained the bodies of 39 people who drowned in the open sea off Batu Rakit in 1980 and another of 53 people who drowned in the waters of Rantau Abang in 1979.

Dong Tran said the overseas Vietnamese communities were upset over the demolition of the Vietnamese memorial erected in Pulau Bidong by the Malaysian Government last year. He said it was done on the behest of the Vietnamese Government.

 

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