Severe floods in Thailand have disrupted a favored escape route for North Koreans fleeing their homeland, a report said Thursday.
About 30 to 40 refugees are waiting for transfer to Bangkok from the northwestern border town of Mae Sai Chiangrai, said Daily NK, a Seoul-based Internet newspaper run by former refugees.
Almost all refugees escape on foot to China but face repatriation if they are caught there. Many travel surreptitiously on what is nicknamed the “underground railway” to Southeast Asia and then seek resettlement in South Korea.
Those refugees who come to Thailand through Laos across the Mekong River report themselves to authorities in Chiang Mai before being transferred to the immigration office in Bangkok, Daily NK said.
But the preferred route through Mae Sai, Chiang Rai and Bangkok is now difficult to transit because of serious flooding, it said.
Daily NK told Chiangrai Times Park Gwang-Su, a refugee already in South Korea, as saying he fears for his family, which moved from Laos to Thailand a few days ago.
“If Bangkok is flooded they would be stranded: having arrived in Chiang Rai they would not be able to leave for the immigration office in Bangkok,” Park said.
More than 21,700 North Koreans have fled their impoverished and hunger-stricken homeland for South Korea since the 1950-1953 war, the vast majority in recent years.
CHIANGRAI TIMES – Anna Wong