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North Korean defectors soar 50-fold in Thailand

The number of North Koreans who have illegally migrated to Thailand has jumped 50-fold in the past six years and the Thai government is not happy about the sudden influx, a Thai newspaper reported last week.

According to the Bangkok Post, an English newspaper in Thailand, the number of North Korean defectors to Thailand marked 2,482 in 2010, compared to 46 in 2004. From October until April, 899 North Koreans were arrested for illegal entry. Chronic food shortages and economic hardships are assumed to be the main motivation for the refugees to flee to Thailand, which has recently emerged as one of the most common destinations for North Koreans seeking freedom.

Even after they are caught, the chances are high that the defectors will be deported to South Korea. “The immigrants normally protest at being sent back to North Korea, allowing South Korean officials to step in and help,” a Thai official was quoted by saying to the newspaper.

These defectors have apparently become a huge headache for the Thai government. The newspaper reported that the Thai authorities have turned down the South Korean administration’s offer to improve the present detention center at the Immigration Bureau or to build a separate center in the popular entry point in the northern region, fearing they might encourage more refugees from the North.

“The South Korean government has played an important role in helping North Koreans by allowing them to resettle in its country,” the paper said.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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