Ventiane, Laos, 1975-6
Waiting all day in Bangkok Airport for the connection with Vientiane, I was amused at this recommendation "Let it happen to you in Laos", and before long, we had good reason to add "WE DO".
It was a particularly momentous year, during which the Coalition Government was taken over by the communist element. Vientiane, the small capital of this beautiful country on the Mékong, became quite a thrilling place to live. Soon after I got there in March 1975, there was a mass exodus of both Lao people and expatriates. In early May, I became the lone tenant of a block of eight flats.
Meanwhile, we were airlifting people and their belongings to their ancestral villages in the north of the country.
This young man, head of an orphaned family, was told by Pathet Lao (communist) soldiers that I was a spy. We nevertheless had further contacts, for he badly needed some assistance. The young ex-soldier found himself trying to look after all his young brothers and sisters. The eldest boy subsequently died in a Thai hospital when funds for an operation arrived too late. Two of the others went to France for adoption.
In the course of a gradual takeover by the communist faction, student demonstrations featured across one particular weekend in May, and as a precaution all the missionaries crossed the Mekong to Thailand. They were not allowed back. I cleared up what they had left behind and as a result became suspect, apparently, to be watched day and night by Pathet Lao soldiers.
We had to be ready to evacuate, but did not need to do so. My flat was simply searched one night when I was en route to Bangkok by train to fetch dollars that were needed to pay for the charter of aircraft, returning with them under my pillow.
We added UNHCR markings to a Royal Air Lao DC 3.
Walking to the residence of the Australian ambassador on Christmas Day, I met up with these children who had just come out of morning school.