Laos Plunges Defectors into Crisis

In the midst of growing fears over the safety of nine young North Koreans deported from Laos to China on Monday, Daily NK has learned that a number of adults were also included in the group.

An anonymous official with an NGO working for North Korean human rights reported to Daily NK today, “We believe there were also some adult defectors who had been at the Immigration Department in Vientiane deported with the group. We are trying to ascertain how many there were, but it appears to have been three or four.”

The group was deported from Laos to the southern Chinese city of Kunming. The nine young people includes seven males and two females, all of whom entered Laos from China with the help of a South Korean couple on or around May 10th, but were revealed as defectors during questioning and moved to the capital soon thereafter.

According to the NGO official, the Laotian government initially said that it was planning to deport the group by train through Vietnam to China, but then made the sudden and unprecedented decision to send them to Kunming by plane. It is widely presumed that the North Korean diplomatic mission in Vientiane intervened in the case, and/or that Pyongyang brought pressure to bear on the Laotian authorities to ensure their deportation.

The South Korean government says it is shocked by the decision. Hitherto the Laotian policy had been to note the wishes of each individual defector or group of defectors, and, following one to two weeks of questioning, send those expressing the desire to travel to South Korea over to Incheon International Airport by plane.

However, the aforementioned couple who helped the group enter Laos told Daily NK that the South Korean embassy in the Laotian capital has been of limited assistance in this case, on one occasion urging NGOs not to make a big deal of it.

“The Park Geun Hye administration must actively intervene and honor its pledge to protect defectors before the group is repatriated to North Korea,” one of the couple asserted.