AS the 30,000th Vietnamese asylum-seeker to return home voluntarily boarded the flight for Hanoi yesterday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Chief of Mission, Robert Van Leeuwen, was on hand to deliver a timely message to those who have been reluctant to follow his example: The international community's pockets are not bottomless and sympathy is limited. The UN refugee body will recommend a sharp cut in the assistance that individual returnees can expect for volunteering to go home. At the same time, donor countries will be asked to step up development aid to the volunteers' home regions. That is exactly the right approach. There will always be a suspicion that some among the 38,233 in the camps are genuine refugees who have been wrongly screened out. Hanoi's human rights record remains poor. Even among the roughly 24,000 who have lost their appeals to the Refugee Status Review Boards, there may be some with a genuine fear of persecution. However, the vast majority have nothing to gain by remaining in Hongkong. Failure to sign up to return home voluntarily by a specific deadline could costthem a slice of the US$410 they now receive to help them through their first year back in Vietnam. This should help to concentrate their minds. At the same time, increased development and integration aid, coupled with the expected fillip to the economy from President Bill Clinton's decision to lift the blockage on International Monetary Fund and World Bank loans to Vietnam, should begin to make the return to Vietnam a slightly more attractive option. That, however, will require greater effort at educating the camp population about the economic changes in Vietnam. Unfortunately, both the UNHCR and the Hongkong Government have an image problem in the camps. Getting the message across in a manner that inmates will find credible may be the hardest task of all.