Thursday, April 26, 2007

North Korean refugees on hunger strike in Thailand

More than 400 North Koreans being held in a Thai immigration facility have launched a hunger strike, demanding they be sent to South Korea, Thai police and an activist group said.

The North Koreans -- 100 men and 314 women -- have been in the cramped detention center for about three months and are waiting to leave for South Korea, Lee Ho-taeg, an official of a South Korean group that aids North Korean asylum seekers, said in Seoul.

A South Korean diplomat in Bangkok said efforts were under way to bring the refugees to South Korea, noting that Thailand has never returned North Korean refugees to their home. The diplomat asked not to be identified, citing policy.

Seoul has said it would accept any North Korean who wants to resettle in the South, but is concerned the rapid increase in arrivals could strain inter-Korean ties and complicate international efforts to resolve North Korea's nuclear program.


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