By late 1978, the refugee flow from Indo-China had reached quite substantial proportions. According to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, over 71,000 had successfully escaped from Vietnam by sea since April I 975 and many more undoubtedly died in escape attempts, in addition to the ethnic Chinese who fled by land. In a speech before the Boston World Affairs Council, Richard Holbrooke of the State Department reported that in October 1978 ‘a record 10,000 "boat people" landed in south east Asian countries. In the first two weeks of November an additional 10,000 landed in Malaysia alone... fleeing unbearable conditions in their home countries.’ This ‘dramatic flow of refugees’, most of them ethnic Chinese, ‘could be highly damaging to the emerging stability of south east Asia.’ Apparently the flight of 200,000 Burmese Muslims to Bangladesh in April – June 1978, more than 18,000 in a single day, was not ‘dramatic’ enough to have reached the attention of the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, just as the flight of 140,000 Filipinos failed to reach this threshold. Among the refugees in Latin America there are also ‘boat people.’ For example, 1,000 refugees from Haiti who ‘voyaged 800 miles in flimsy sailboats to Florida, where they received harsh and discriminatory treatment by Immigration and State Department officials.’ These refugees fled from oppression and torture in the sub-fascist US client with the lowest living standards in the hemisphere.
No rationale has been offered for treating the Haitian ‘boat people’ differently from the Vietnamese and Cubans ‘who have been given asylum as a group.’ The rationale, however, is obvious enough. As in the case of 140,000 refugees from the Philippines or a quarter of a million refugees from Southern