Refugee Camp in Southeast Asia

Former US Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn describes conditions in a refugee camp in Southeast Asia. Governors from several US states, including Governor Robert Ray from Iowa, visited the camp in 1979.


And somebody had brought some water. She had a bucket and it was raining. And there were puddles of water. And she's just sitting in the middle of this puddle of water with her empty bucket next to her about a few feet from the water tank. And she couldn't go any more. This is where sort of her spirit gave out. And her energy gave out. And her will gave out. And she was sort of sitting there not moving, sitting up, she was alive but sitting up and not able to move, not able to go on. There was a couple of makeshift tents that were the hospital. And there were doctors with practically no medicine feverishly working on people whose life was sort of flowing out of their bodies both literally and figuratively. And the dead were being carried out with sort of poles with kind of a spread or a sheet carrying their bodies. And other people were being carried in. And there was a food line where people would run to the market with some money. I mean, these wonderful NGOs desperately trying to help and buy all the bread or the fish, whatever they could get and coming out and people would line up to come and get food. We were there much of the day. It was kind of hard to leave. And you had the sense we should be doing something. But what do you do because we don't have anything to offer in terms of practical skills other than to carry the story away. I've been on a lot of trips with governors and congressmen and diplomats and, you know, you go and see stuff and you talk about it and there's nice repartee. This affected these governors for days and days. On the plane flying back they were still talking about it, almost like a catharsis. They were so impacted. And what do we do? And they're a wonderful, eclectic mix geographically and politically—people that everybody was wanting to do something. What do you do? How do you help in some way? They were feeling helpless but feeling…I think, everyone personally sort of devastated by what they had seen.

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