August 22, 2006

Thai police raid nabs 169 North Koreans

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai police said on Tuesday they had
detained 169 North Koreans in a raid on a house in a Bangkok
suburb after neighbors became suspicious of the number of
people in it.

"This is the biggest single arrest of North Koreans" in
Thailand, Police Major General Pramoj Pathumwong told Reuters.

The North Koreans, mostly women and children, had entered
Thailand illegally and were staying in the house with 16
compatriots who had travel documents from the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees, police said.

The 16 had been due to leave on Tuesday night for South
Korea, the favored destination for most of the trickle of
refugees leaving the hard-line communist North, they said.

But the UNHCR had their documents, which police insisted on
seeing, so the 16 missed their flight as they were kept at
Immigration Police headquarters.

Including the 16, there were 128 women, 12 children under
the age of 15 and 45 men, police said.

There was no immediate explanation on how so many North
Koreans had managed to cram into a house with at least 10
bedrooms without Thai police being aware of them.

Nor was it known immediately how long they had been there.

Most North Koreans who manage to leave their tightly
controlled country do so across the border into a region of
northeast China populated by ethnic Koreans.

Some have managed to cross China to Thailand and Vietnam in
recent years and most are sent on to Seoul, often without
publicity to avoid upsetting the North Korean government.