Morrisville, N.C. — A Montagnard refugee who endured years of torture and imprisonment before fleeing Vietnam was set to reunite with his family Tuesday night at Raleigh-Durham International Airport after a long journey to freedom.
Y'Soai Eban, who began working for Montagnard rights after his father was killed in a Vietnamese prison in 1983, hasn't seen his wife and two children since he, too, was imprisoned, tortured and eventually fled to the jungles of Cambodia several years ago. Eban was turned away from a United Nations refugee camp in Phnom Penh, Cambobia, then walked to Bangkok, Thailand, where he was imprisoned again for not having papers.
A group of Triangle activists helped raise money to set him free, and he eventually made his way to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he worked in an orphanage for about two years while the necessary paperwork was filed to bring him to North Carolina in April 2012.
The activists then began petitioning to get Eban's family out of Vietnam. Their plane was set to touch down at 10:10 p.m.
During the Vietnam War, the Montagnard people from the nation's central highlands fought the Viet Cong alongside U.S. Army Special Forces. Once the war was over, many of them were persecuted for their American alliance.
Eban's father was among them. He was an interpreter with the Green Berets for nine years before being captured by communist forces in 1975, imprisoned and tortured repeatedly for eight years.
About 90 percent of Montagnard refugees have settled in North Carolina, specifically in Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte.