Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Thailand’s key role in aiding North Korean refugees

During the first two months of this year, the South Korean government admitted 140 North Korean asylum seekers arriving from Thailand. That represented the country's highest ever intake of refugees over a two-month period.

A total of 500 North Koreans were repatriated to Seoul from Bangkok last year. The Unification Ministry in Seoul was quite happy with the kind assistance Thailand has been providing but refused to elaborate. Officials here declined to discuss the matter in detail for fear that it would jeopardise the ongoing discreet arrangement.

China and Thailand topped the list of countries used as transit points for repatriation. Last year alone, 16 per cent of North Koreans who settled in South Korea came from Thailand. There were other countries used as transit points for refugees that authorities here did not want to reveal.

These freedom seekers have taken different routes, trekking thousands of kilometres from the North towards the Golden Triangle area where Thailand, Burma and Laos meet.

Once they arrive at border areas adjacent to Thailand, either from the Burmese or Laotian side, they know that their freedom will be guaranteed because the Thai government will not expel them. Of course, they are detained and subsequently fined, which is just a formality.

[Excerpt of an article by Kavi Chongkittavorn, The Nation ]

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