Malaysian authorities demolished a memorial honoring Vietnamese who died fleeing communist rule, an official said Wednesday, after Vietnam demanded its removal.
Former Vietnamese refugees living in the United States and Australia erected a marble plaque last March on Bidong island in northeastern Terengganu state, where 250,000 Vietnamese arrived in fishing boats after communists took over South Vietnam in 1975.
Toh Chin Yaw, head of Terengganu's state environment and unity department, said the plaque was torn down last week following a protest from the Vietnamese government over its construction.
"The plaque was built illegally without the state government's consent," Toh said, stressing that other commemorative structures in Bidong built by Vietnamese refugees who lived there before being resettled in other countries were not destroyed.
The memorial expressed hope that those who died while making the South China Sea voyage to Terengganu and other coastal areas in Southeast Asia would "now enjoy lasting peace."
"In commemoration of the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people who perished on the way to freedom ... their sacrifices will not be forgotten," read an inscription on the structure.
The United Nations' refugee agency says it has resettled some 240,000 Vietnamese refugees from Malaysia to other countries, while more than 9,000 others returned voluntarily to Vietnam, reports the AP.