When the Americans lost the Vietnam War there were many who did not wish to stay in Vietnam. Those with influence were airlifted out by the Americans but many had to make do with crowding onto leaky boats and making the journey from Vietnam to the gulf of Thailand. In doing so they unwittingly wrote themselves into modern pirate history.
Conditions were perfect for piracy. The local fishermen were poor and were looking for an easy means to supplement their income. The Vietnamese government did not care about them and the Thai government was not anxious to receive large boatloads of refugees. No one cared about the fate of the boat people so allegations of piracy were often ignored. It was only when the incidents became more shocking that pressure was brought to bear on the Thai government by maritime interests led by the Americans. By then thousands had been robbed, raped and murdered. What follows are some examples:
Eventually the Thai government was forced to take measures. Fishing boats had to be registered with a prominent number displayed on its prow. Boats were also photographed going in and out of port. This deterred many but those pirates who remained became more brutal and ruthless, ensuring there were no witnesses to identify them.
Pirate incidents petered out at the end of the eighties as the number of refugees decreased. It is fashionable nowadays for historians to assume that the barbarity of pirates was overrated and that pirates were basically career criminals. These more recent accounts are almost certainly not exaggerated and so it seems likely that many of those stories in the past were equally true. (Vietnamese Boat people.
The suffering of the Vietnamese Boat people
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