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New exodus of Viet boat people in the offing

Vietnam plans to unleash a new exodus of boat people this month because the United States has failed to approve a list of people Hanoi will allow to leave the country, officials said Monday.

At least five officials, mostly disenchanted former Viet Cong guerrillas from the south, said they hoped to be aboard the latest flotilla to join the thousands who have been fleeing Vietnam for more than a year.

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"There is no more Republic of south Vietnam," one of them said. The officials were bitter that "the 1975 victory became a win for the north, rather than a true liberation." They said the new exodus is the result of "American obstructionism" in failing to approve a list of tens of thousands on the Vietnamese government list for resettlement abroad.

"We are frustrated. We have agreed to let 32,000 carefully screened people go abroad on regularly scheduled or chartered aircraft. But the Americans won't accept them," one official said.

Scores of private citizens said in interviews they had already made down payments of one tael of gold, about $3,000, on "tickets" that would eventually cost them a total of $15,000. They said they were ordered by unidentified organizers to be ready to move "by next weekend," and evidence pointed to anchorages from remotes areas in the delta south of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.

The officials declined to say how the new exodus would be controlled, but indicated that while the government will not actually direct operations, it will turn its back while the organizers conduct their business.

In 1978, Vietnam announced that anyone was free to leave the country who was not a wanted criminal or engaged in critical security work for the government. When the exodus reached epic proportions later in the year, Hanoi agreed to an international refugee conference at which it pledged to adhere to an orderly departure program.

Thousands of refugees, many of them ethnic Chinese from Vietnam, have been resettled in the US and other Western countries but there are still thousands in camps in Thailand and Hong Kong. Others drowned in the south China Sea or were killed by pirates.

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