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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05BANGKOK6097
2005-09-23 10:01:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bangkok
Cable title:  

RESPONSE ON OPPORTUNITIES IN THAILAND TO ASSIST

Tags:   PREF  PREL  PHUM  TH  KN  DPRK 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 006097 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR PRM

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/23/2015
TAGS: PREF PREL PHUM TH KN DPRK
SUBJECT: RESPONSE ON OPPORTUNITIES IN THAILAND TO ASSIST
NORTH KOREAN ASYLUM SEEKERS

REF: A. A. SECSTATE 172010


B. B. BANGKOK 000484

Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR SUSAN M. SUTTON FOR REASONS
1.5 (B,D)



1. (C) Summary. Both Thai and local UNHCR officials judge that
the current, informal pipeline that funnels North Korean asylum
seekers through UNHCR and on to the ROK embassy for swift and
quiet resettlement continues to work well. According to Thai
officials, any future USG efforts to accept North Koreans in
Thailand would be "very, very difficult" for the RTG to
consider, given their emphasis on speed and discretion in
removing North Koreans from Thailand, and the RTG's current
effort to serve as a bridge between Pyongyang and the United
States. As one Thai official stated, the RTG does not want to
become a "magnet" for North Koreans and his government wants
policy to "stay as it is." End Summary.



2. (C) Embassy officers met with several UNHCR and RTG officials
to informally discuss the status of North Korean asylum seekers
in Thailand. Both senior and mid-level Thai officials in the
National Security Council and Ministry of Foreign Affairs
emphasized that they do not want North Koreans to come to
Thailand, but that the current ROK pipeline is allowed to
continue because it allows for the swift, discreet relocation of
a modest number of North Koreans. The following are responses
to questions in ref A.

-- Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 refugee convention
and North Korean asylum seekers in Thailand are not granted any
special international refugee status. The RTG, however, allows
UNHCR and the ROK Embassy to operate an informal pipeline that
moves North Koreans onward to South Korea. North Koreans who
are arrested in Thailand and placed in immigration detention--as
well as those that remain free and contact local South Korean
religious and NGO groups--are quickly put in contact with UNHCR,
which verifies their nationality, obtains basic biodata, and
determines if they are interested in resettlement in the ROK.
Once these conditions have been met, UNHCR then refers these
cases to the ROK Embassy, which provides travel documents and
other support for onward relocation to South Korea. UNHCR sees
no reason to do formal status determinations on these cases
because the South Korean Embassy has said it will take all North
Koreans, and ROK nationality is more protective than any status
UNHCR can offer. North Koreans in Thailand do not enjoy any
special rights under Thai law, and the current UNHCR/ROK
pipeline is not specifically authorized by law or statute, but
by informal agreement with the RTG. There have been no cases of
refoulement, and no other asylum-seeking group is afforded such
reliable assistance.

-- North Koreans in Thailand do not experience any particular
vulnerability or protection issue.

-- RTG officials have made clear their extreme reluctance to
entertain the idea of USG processing of North Koreans in
Thailand. A senior NSC official told Polcouns and visiting
EAP/MLS Director that the RTG does not want North Koreans to
come to, or transit, Thailand. Given the reality of some North
Koreans entering the country, the RTG permits the pipeline to
function because it is a quick solution to the problem.
Separately, a mid-level MFA official told acting Refcoord that
Thailand does not want to become a "magnet" for North Koreans,
and that any USG role would likely lead to such. He explained
that Thailand is trying to serve as a link between the "free
world" and the DPRK, and that any publicity about or increase in
the number of North Korean illegals entering Thailand could put
this policy in jeopardy (Note: and may threaten the current
pipeline as well. End Note). It would be "very, very difficult"
for the RTG to accept such a USG role. Thai officials want
policy to "stay as it is."

-- Given concerns outlined in answer above, NSC officials
explained that they would not be "comfortable" with any USG
increases in assistance for North Koreans in Thailand. North
Korean asylum cases handled by the pipeline result in relocation
to ROK within "days," according to UNHCR and thus little
assistance is required. Per ref B, South Korean Embassy
officials have told us that they, in concert with religious
groups, provide adequate food, clothing, and housing for North
Koreans asylum seekers in Thailand.

-- The RTG is unlikely to welcome USG support for providing
protection and assistance to North Korean asylum seekers in
Thailand.


3. (C) Comment. Our Thai and UNHCR interlocutors have responded
to our informal inquiries with the message "if it isn't broken,
why fix it?" Behind the Thai response, however, lies an equally
important difference of perspective. As successful as the
current pipeline may be at affording North Koreans safehaven
from the horrors of their own country, it plays a different role
for the RTG. The Thai have long struggled to deal with refugees
crossing over from neighboring Burma, Cambodia and Laos. The
prospect of a new wave of North Koreans settling in Thailand and
awaiting a long and uncertain processing period fills them with
understandable apprehension, especially given the geopolitical
sensitivities involved. For them, the current pipeline is less
about helping North Koreans than helping the Thai avoid a new,
more difficult refugee problem.







BOYCE