Fewer refugees knock at Thailand's closing door

Thailand's tough new refugee policy and uncertainty over the refugee policies of Western nations appears to be deterring would-be refugees from leaving Vietnam. Monsoon weather is also discouraging departures.

Thai authorities have hoped that by spreading word to the people of Vietnam that they would not be welcome as genuine refugees, the number of people leaving would drop.

Thailand's "Radio Free Asia" is bombarding Indochina and particularly vietnam with details of its tough new refugee policy. Thai authorities say that after Aug. 15 new arrivals will not be eligible for resettlement in third countries.

The Vietnamese are also hearing of increasing American doubts about the refugee status of the people now escaping from Vietnam. Many are really "economic immigrants," some charge.

Fewer Indochinese refugees arrived in Thailand in the first three weeks of July than in any similar period for several years. Only 140 Vietnamese boat people landed on the Thai coast. In the past 2 1/2 years monthly arrivals have only very rarely fallen below 500.

The refugee flow into Thailand is slowing to a trickle, even should more refugees have arrived in the last 10 days of July than over the previous three weeks.

Southeast Asia's monsoon has put a brake on the flight of refugees as it does at this time every year. Conditions for small boats are difficul t in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.

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