Most of detained North Koreans wish to go to South Korea
Almost all of the 175 North Koreans refugees detained by the police on illegal entry charges have requested to be relocated to South Korea, informed sources said on Wednesday.
Only about three or four have expressed interest in going to the United States, said the sources on condition of anonymity.
The report came as Thai authorities were scrambling to contain further damages from the mass arrest that put Thailand in bad light among the international community who see the plight of the "displaced" North Koreans as a humanitarian issue, not a matter of law and order.
The 175 North Koreans were being processed through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees before the US or South Korea would be notified. At least 16 of the 175 were said to have a "person of concern", or POC, a status granted by the UN refugee agency to asylum seekers. The group, comprising of 136 women and 39 men,
Officials said there is an understanding between Thai government and the international community that the North Korean "displaced people" should be treated in a quiet manner to prevent any possible retribution against the person's family members.
But at the same time, Thai officials said they do not want to be seen as a transit place for human trafficking.
In a press conference yesterday, Foreign Ministry's spokesman Kitti Wasinondh said the government was concerned that Thailand is being exploited as a transit point for "human smuggling".
The Immigration Bureau considered the 175 to be violators of the country's immigration law. The government will work with concerned countries to prevent illegal entry to the Kingdom, Kitti said.
"They entered Thailand at a border point somewhere in the north and have been in the kingdom around two months so far," Lieutenant General Suwat Thamrongsrisakul said.
News about the 175 North Koreans surfaced on Tuesday night when police raided a home in a Bangkok residential area following complaints from neighbours over the high number of people entering and leaving the resident.
Meanwhile, AFP quoted South Korea's Foreign Minister Ban KiMoon as saying in Seoul, "we are trying to sort out related details through our embassy in Thailand. The government will hold consultations with the Thai government before reviewing measures to be taken," Ban KiMoon said.