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As one of the boat people refugees, Thien escaped war-torn Vietnam on a harrowing journey that landed him in a Malaysian refugee camp. Thien Tang had an ordinary childhood living in South Vietnam until it became a Communist state. His father feared persecution of his family and sent his fourteen-year-old son into hiding for over a year. Upon his return, Thien attended a local high school and found a classmate sweetheart. Life once again was good. But it wasn’t meant to last. Thien was forced to go back into hiding again with no hope of return. Like thousands of others, he fled Vietnam on a crowded boat in search of a new life. But first he had to cross the treacherous South China Sea to reach Malaysia.
Thien’s ship was attacked by pirates and shot at by police. On land, he and his fellow refuges were jailed, starved, and beaten, but survival only brought on tougher challenges. The soldiers forced them at gunpoint back into their damaged boat to be towed to sea. He sought asylum in the United States but found the refuge he was seeking in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, where he lives today.