Southeast Asian Refugees in Argentina after the Vietnam War, 1979–85

Friday, January 6, 2017: 9:10 AM
Room 401 (Colorado Convention Center)
Sam Vong, University of Texas at Austin
This paper explores the resettlement of Southeast Asian refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand to Argentina after the Vietnam War. Between 1979 and 1980, the government of Argentina admitted more than 1,300 refugees from Southeast Asia, many of whom escaped from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam in search of asylum as a result of the Vietnam War, cross-border wars, and famine. The admission and settlement of Southeast Asian refugees in Argentina was part of an international humanitarian effort, spearheaded by the United Nations, to address the Indochinese refugee crisis in the late 1970s. The Argentine government, run by a military dictatorship at the time, saw the refugee crisis as an opportunity to extend its compassion toward refugees in order to deflect attention away from allegations of human rights abuses in the 1970s, particularly the disappearances of its own citizens in what is referred to as the “dirty wars.” Argentine officials also sought to profit from the refugee crisis by resettling refugees who would provide a source of cheap labor for its agricultural sector, which they hoped would address the country’s labor shortage. Drawing on the records of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, mainstream newspapers, and new archival records found in the state archives of the Argentine government, I examine the experiences of refugees in Argentina and the paradox of Argentina’s humanitarianism in the late 1970s. In doing so, this paper will also situate this resettlement program within a longer history of Asian settler colonialism in Argentina.
<< Previous Presentation | Next Presentation