Thamesmead played a part in the reunion of Vietnamese boat people who travelled to the UK to escape the Communist government of Southern Vietnam in 1979.
It was the first time 35 people who travelled on the same boat all those years ago had met. Reunion organiser, 53 year old Beckenham resident Quang Duong said: “Thirty five adults and five children attended the reunion; it was fantastic catching up with everyone finding out what they have been up to since we arrived in the UK. Many are now parents and grandparents, whose children are now doctors, lawyers and contribute to society.”
Those who attended Sunday's reunion at Jubilee Community Centre, Lytton Strachey Path in Thamesmead, of whom four live in Thamesmead, now live in London and the Home Counties. Eight others are accounted for, with five living in the USA and three in Australia “It was a bit too far for them to travel.” Joked Quang who is a translator for a law firm and who has announced he will be holding a reunion on an annual basis.
An estimated 1.5 million people illegally attempted to flee Vietnam in make shift boats or fishing boats, which although safe for near-shore fishing, they were not built for open waters. This coupled with the fact that they were usually chronically overcrowded, making any journey into the open seas potentially highly dangers bears no surprise that statistics state 50,000-200,000 people died either through drowning, being attacked and murdered by pirates or sold into slavery and prostitution. It has been reported that the UK accepted 19,000 boat people.