November 21, 2005

Thais holds 12 North Koreans for illegal entry

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai police have arrested 12 North
Koreans, including a boy around seven years old, on suspicion
of illegal entry after they crossed into the north of the
country across the Mekong river.

"They took a boat ride along the Mekong. Most of them came
as a family," police colonel Yongyuth Narong-indra in the
northern town of Chiang Saen, which borders Laos, said on

Yongyuth said one group of North Koreans was picked up on
Saturday, followed by another on Sunday.

"We are waiting for a translator to help us with our
interrogation before charging them in court of illegally
entering the country," Yongyuth said.

Even though they do not share a common border, a few North
Korean refugees have in the past turned up in Thailand seeking
asylum after fleeing into China, and then traveling through
Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar or Cambodia.

With quiet, behind-the-scenes assistance from Seoul, many
of the refugees have ended up in South Korea. Nearly 1,900
North Korean refugees arrived in South Korea last year,
bringing the total to more than 6,000 in recent years.

It is not yet known whether the 12 will be deported to a
third country or returned to North Korea, Yongyuth said.

Nobody from the South Korean embassy was immediately
available for comment.