Dispatches Reveal Cambodia Helped North Korean Refugees

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.


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