Father reunited with family in Raleigh after six years apart

Posted February 2, 2013 10:04 p.m. EST
Updated February 5, 2013 11:25 p.m. EST

— A father who hadn't seen his wife and children in six years due to civil unrest in Vietnam was reunited with his family this week in Raleigh.

Y'Soai Eban (pronounced E-soy E-bahn) was a Christian youth leader in the central highlands of Vietnam. Escaping prison and torture, he walked hundreds of miles to Thailand and spent six years as a Montagnard refugee.

He missed out on birthdays, anniversaries and watching his children grow. With the help of several activist groups, including one in the Triangle, he and his family were reunited.

“They were going to kill me,” Eban said. “I can’t contact with them. If I contact them by phone, the government will know my wife has a cellphone. My wife could be arrested, because they don’t want someone in the central highlands to contact other countries.”

His youngest son was just 2, the same age Eban was when his father was imprisoned, tortured and died. His father worked closely with the green berets during the Vietnam War. Once the war was over, several Montagnards were persecuted, as were their families.

“They were really our closest allies during the Vietnam conflict,” Eban said.

John Alles served with several green berets who stood side by side with people like Eban's father. That's part of the reason why his group is so committed to reuniting families.

“I knew that when we left in 1975, we left these people to some terrible things," including ethnic genocide, Alles said.

Eban says if he didn't leave, he would have likely been killed, but leaving meant he may never have seen his family again.

With help from the American Consulate in Saigon and groups like the Montagnard Human Rights Organization, Eban was brought to Raleigh last April. He still hadn't seen or talked with his family in years, until this week.

“When they get here, I’m so happy. I saw my wife and my children,” Eban said.

Now that they've reunited, Eban says education will become his family’s top priority. His wife and children will soon take classes to learn English.

To learn more about the Montagnards, the Raleigh IMAX will be showing two free screenings of the documentary, Abandoned Allies, at 3 and 5:15 p.m. Sunday. A question and answer session will follow.