Thursday, August 24, 2006

Thai police arrest 175 North Koreans

Thailand's police rounded up 175 North Korean defectors -- mainly women and children -- in a raid on a Bangkok suburb Tuesday, an incident that has cast light on the Southeast Asian nation's increasingly popular status as a refuge for defectors from Kim Jong-il's regime.

The refugees had escaped North Korea via China and are thought to have been awaiting processing by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the South Korean and possibly U.S. embassies, before transit to a third country.

A Seoul official familiar with North Korea-related issues said: "We do not believe this marks a change in Thai policy. They have said that they will release them to third countries -- South Korea or the United States -- after interrogation. I don't think they are going to send them back to North Korea."

Activists urged more action. "Governments have to deal with this and look this crisis in the face," said Tim Peters, a U.S. Christian activist who heads up the charity Helping Hands Korea. "Hopefully, the main players are going to start looking at ways they can absorb more of these refugees."

[Excerpt of article by Andrew Salmon, The Washington Times]

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