Languages
Page last updated at 11:24 GMT, Thursday, 1 January 2009

Burma frees North Korean refugees

North Korean refugees in Bangkok, Thailand, October 2006
North Koreans refugees usually seek asylum in South Korea

The Burmese authorities have released 19 North Korean refugees at the border with Thailand, a South Korean diplomat has said.

The diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the move would pave the way for their travel to South Korea.

The Burmese government had detained the 19 refugees for a month on charges of illegal entry.

Instead of being jailed or deported, the refugees will now stay in a Thai detention centre.

Refugee supporters had feared the Burmese government might have sent the refugees back to North Korea.

But the group - which includes 15 women and a seven-year old boy - now have a chance of a new life.

They had been arrested on 2 December as they were trying to cross from Burma into Thailand.

Dangerous escape

Many North Koreans who have managed the dangerous escape from North Korea into China in the past have often travelled southward, undetected.

Thailand does not formally recognise asylum seekers as refugees, but has pursued a policy of allowing for their care by international refugee groups in Thailand pending resettlement in third countries.

Officials in Burma, who rarely speak to the press, were not available for comment, and the Immigration Department in Bangkok, Thailand, said they had not heard of the transfer yet.

Thousands of people have fled North Korea in recent years, and at least 14,000 of them have found their way to asylum in South Korea.

Burma's response to this group of North Koreans was thought to be unpredictable as the country had been working quietly to normalise relations with North Korea since diplomatic ties were restored in 2007.

Burma had severed relations with North Korea in 1983 following a bombing in Rangoon by North Korean secret agents which targeted former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan.

He was unhurt, but 21 people were killed and Burma was outraged at the offence mounted on its soil.

Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
Burma, North Korea restore ties
26 Apr 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Burma sends envoy to North Korea
11 Sep 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Burma denies N Korea ties
12 Feb 04 |  Asia-Pacific
The plight of North Korea's refugees
05 Sep 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Escaping North Korea
28 Jul 04 |  Asia-Pacific
North Korea's great escape
30 May 08 |  From Our Own Correspondent


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2018 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific