Documents published by anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks show that Cambodia assisted North Koreans seeking refuge in South Korea, and that a North Korean arrested and held in Mondolkiri province in November 2006 was not deported to Vietnam as claimed by authorities.
The man, referred to as Ly Hai Long in media reports at the time, was assisted in his search for asylum by the Cambodian and South Korean governments through a refugee “pipeline” for North Korean asylum seekers, according to the cables.
On Nov 22, 2006, Deputy National Police commissioner Sok Phal reported that a North Korean man had been detained in Mondolkiri province after crossing into Cambodia from Vietnam, and was immediately deported back to Vietnam.
US Embassy diplomatic cables from that time tell a different story, noting that the then-South Korean ambassador contacted US officials and told them that his government was working with Cambodia to “quietly move him [the asylum seeker] to South Korea.”
Two other US cables released last week that deal with the issue of North Korean refugees refer to Cambodia’s continued—and hushed—assistance of asylum seekers.
One of those cables, dated July 2007, discusses the status of five North Korean refugees in Cambodia who were awaiting resettlement in the US.
“The [South Korean] Counselors were preoccupied with conveying their desire that the ROK pipeline for North Korean refugees not be publicly revealed, and remain separate from any US refugee processing pipeline for North Koreans,” the cable read.
An April 2008 cable discusses the imminent departure of two other North Korean refugees from Cambodia to the US.
The cable expresses pleasure at the late Cambodian Police Commissioner Hok Lundy’s “cooperation in…processing exit permits for the two individuals,” as well as Cambodian officials’ “discreet” handling of North Korean refugees.