[Including the 175 North Korean refugees apprehended in Thailand on August 22] local sources say Thailand is currently home to 260 North Korean defectors.
The Thai government has turned a blind eye to North Korean defectors’ illegal entry and their entry to a third country because of humanitarian reasons. Also, it maintains good relations with the Korean and U.S. governments, the defectors’ final destination.
A diplomatic source in Thailand said, “The number of North Koreans who sneak out of China to Thailand through Laos is rapidly increasing.”
The Thai authorities feel the burden of the increasing number of North Korean defectors, however. “Rumor has it that 100,000 defectors in China plan to enter Thailand through a neighboring country, which I think is very serious,” said Lt. Gen. Suwat Tumrongsiskul.
Most North Koreans who manage to leave their tightly controlled country do so across the border into a region of northeast China populated by ethnic Koreans. Some have managed to cross China to Thailand and Vietnam in recent years and most are sent on to Seoul, often without publicity to avoid upsetting the North Korean government.