Sunday, December 21, 2008

December 21, 2008: North Korean refugees caught in Burma.

This boggled my mind when I came across it. In the last few months, I've started working with refugees, many of them from Burma (Myanmar). Prior to that I'd done some reading on Burma, although I confess it was nothing that I would consider to be extensive. Throughout all this time, I have NEVER heard anyone anywhere say anything good about the government of Burma. Nothing, nada, zip.

And the economy there is terrible, too.

So the notion that North Koreans are actually sneaking into Burma as refugees, even if they intend only to use it as a transit point to elsewhere, is just shocking in its implications about North Korea.

BREAKING NEWS >> Saturday December 20, 2008 22:24

Burma arrests North Korean refugees

Rangoon (AFP) - Burmese authorities have arrested 19 defectors from their ally North Korea and plan to charge them with illegally entering the country, a senior police official said Saturday.

The group of mostly men were trying to make their way to South Korea via China and Southeast Asia, an increasingly popular route for North Koreans trying to escape chronic hunger and repression in their communist homeland.

"They were arrested when they entered over the border in eastern [Burma] in early December," said the official, who did not want to be named as he was not authorised to speak to media.

"As they were arrested in our territory, we are taking action against them under the immigration act," he said. "Their main reason (for leaving) was to go to South Korea to meet with their relatives or family members there."

Many North Koreans cross China and travel through Laos and Burma to try and reach more sympathetic countries such as Thailand with the hope of winning eventual resettlement in South Korea.

China repatriates North Korean defectors as economic migrants. The Burmese police official said he was not sure if the 19 people would be returned and said the North Korean embassy in Rangoon had not yet intervened.

Military-ruled Burma and hardline communist North Korea, which are both severely criticised internationally for human rights abuses, agreed in April 2007 to restore diplomatic relations.

Burma severed ties with Pyongyang in 1983 following a failed assassination attempt by North Korean agents on then-South Korean president Chun Doo-Hwan during his visit to Rangoon.

The bombing killed 17 of Chun's entourage including cabinet ministers while four Burmese officials also died.

Burma, which has been ruled by generals since 1962, and North Korea have been branded "outposts of tyranny" by the United States, which imposes sanctions on both.

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