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Thailand

Nguyen, 21

Vietnamese refugee from Con Dau, now living in Bangkok, Thailand.

I was living in a Catholic parish in Con Dau, Da Nang, and the government wanted to close the parish and confiscate the land. On 4 May 2010 there was supposed to be a funeral for a local woman but the authorities wouldn’t give permission so the police appeared and blocked the way into the cemetery. They started beating people, even pregnant women, with batons and electric rods. They arrested around 60 people, including my mother, took the coffin and left the village in chaos.

According to the government, anyone who left the country was an enemy of the people. I went to Laos without notifying the police. The government didn’t like Catholics because of our strong religious beliefs and they banned Catholics from working for the government. We were discriminated against. You had to denounce your religion to work for the government.

My mother was in prison for six months and then sentenced to nine months house arrest. Other people in the prison were badly beaten and now suffer from the consequences. My mother would like to join me here but she is under police surveillance.

After the incident at the funeral I managed to make my way to Da Nang city. From there I took a bus to Laos and from Laos on to Thailand. I had a passport so was able to cross the border but other villagers without passports had to wander through the jungle. We were helped by a priest who brought all of us, who had fled from Con Dau to the Department of Homeland Security. From there we were referred to the International Rescue Committee.

On 14 June 2012 I’ll fly to Tennessee in the USA to be resettled. I’m very much looking forward to it – I’ve been waiting for this for two years. I’ll be able to raise my voice and speak about what is happening in Vietnam and to try and solve the conflict between Catholics and the government. If I could, I would go back to see my parents but I think this will only be possible once the Vietnamese government changes.