Chairperson, Distinguished Members of the International
Community of Human Rights NGOs and Activists, Respectable Members
Media, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I wish to thank you for your interest in the human rights disaster
that North Korea has created, and for the innocent victims
it has created.
As was reported by Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN Special
Rapporteur on the North Korean Human Rights Situation, and a
North Korean witness, Shin Dong-hyuk, who testified to the North
Korean crimes just before me, there is no doubt whatsoever that
the North Korean regime continues to perpetrate the worst crimes
against humanity in recent history.
Today, we believe that
North Korea has committed almost every known human rights violation.
North Korea’s political prison
camps and prisons are the most abominable and horrifying examples
of this – the crimes committed in these places are worse
than those of the Soviet gulags or the Nazi concentration camps.
These crimes have been perpetuated in North Korea for decades – they
are committed ruthlessly and systematically.
Today, I also wish to draw your attention to a separate humanitarian
disaster, related to North Korean refugees, yet equally as grave.
Many North Koreans have defected from North
Korea into China for food and freedom over the years. These defectors
eligible for refugee status under the 1951 UN Convention Relating
to the Status of Refugees. Their numbers have been estimated
to be somewhere between 50,000 to 300,000 at any given time.
Please refer to my paper about their status available on the
table outside for further elaboration on this issue.
Their presence in China is
clearly an issue to be determined by the UN Convention – they
should be treated as refugees, and nothing else. Nevertheless,
of China has been
arresting and repatriating them to a horrible persecution back
in North Korea. The North Koreans who are sent back face prison
camps and a possible death.
Over the years, human rights NGOs, international
organizations, and foreign governments have made a number of
appeals to the
government of China on this issue.
The Chinese government has ignored these appeals, and has not
even bothered to respond. They continue to forcibly return
North Korean refugees to a most atrocious persecution. China
humanitarian aid workers for helping North Korean refugees,
often times for periods of several years.
This is clearly a case of Chinese arrogance and defiance of
international law; it is not simply a difference of opinion.
I have deep conviction that China must be strongly condemned
for its defiance of international human rights law.
In this context,
we wholeheartedly welcome the American legislators who have
recently introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives
calling for a boycott of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing unless
China "stops engaging in serious human rights abuses," including
the denial of refugee status to North Korean refugees.
In the same context, I wish to draw the attention of this conference
to the resolution adopted by the International Parliamentarians
Coalition for North Korean Refugees Human Rights, consisting
of 111 parliamentarians from 36 countries, at its 4th General
meeting in Seoul on 29 August 2007, urging the United Nations
and governments of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar to provide
some measures of legal protection for the civil liberties of
North Korean refugees and to make the resettlement process more
expedient and efficient, so there is no delay and no waste of
As we know,
many North Korean defectors have arrived in South Korea for
their freedom. The total number of them reached 11,000
in the middle of this year. In 2006 alone, nearly 1,000 North
Koreans arrived in South Korea by going through a number of countries
that accept them – including Russia, Mongolia, Myanmar,
and Thailand. We understand that some 30% of them arrived via
Thailand. But here in Thailand, the only country where they are
arrested and detained, these refugees suffer the most.
For example, a number of international NGOs
over the past few months have become aware that over 300 female
babies, children, patients and older women, are crammed into
a space sufficient for only 50-100 inmates for many months now.
As a result of the insufficient space, the
inmates need to struggle to even go to the bathroom. We have
learned that there
4 toilets for over 300 inmates, and some of these toilets are
out of order most of the time. To further prove this point,
we have learned that in April of this year, there was only one
available on the day they began the hunger strike to protest
I wish to take this opportunity to express
my sincere condolences to Mr. Kim Sang-hyon, a North Korean refugee
who died of
a cerebral hemorrhage in the Bangkok Detention Center on 8 August,
He was formerly a senior government official in North Korea,
he fled North Korea in March this year and arrived in Thailand
a week later. He was in his 5th month of detention and there
is little doubt that he could have been saved if proper medical
attention was given. Under such inhumane conditions of near
inferno, it is no surprise that many contagious diseases
among them and there are serious patients without any proper
medical attention right now and at this moment no Thai people
would approve of if they know about it. Some people believe
that it is an act of crime on the part of Thai immigration
Despite the fact that I am unhappy with the current time
of imprisonment and general degrading treatment within
and in the resettlement process, many North Koreans who
have arrived in South Korea are deeply grateful to the people
and Government of Thailand for humanitarian assistance
while in Thailand.
Today, a former North Korean family is with us for this conference,
and expressed their gratitude to the people of Thailand yesterday.
He is here today with his two little children who would have
never been born without the help of the people of Thailand. His
statement of thanks to the people of Thailand is also attached
to the papers available on the table at the entrance to this
A Thai lady who attended the Conference yesterday, testified
on behalf of many Thai workers to the kindness they received
from Korean people during their employment in Korea.
And please also allow me to take this opportunity to express
my own sincere gratitude and admiration to the people and government
of Thailand for their past assistance of North Koreans arriving
in Thailand on their way to South Korea and elsewhere.
But while I am appreciative that Thailand does ultimately help
North Korean refugees arriving here, at the same time I am concerned
with the hardening attitude of some Thai government authorities
towards North Korean refugees.
Some Thai officials have been worried that their numbers are
rising, there are profiteering brokers helping them, and that
North Korean refugees are a threat to national security.
Regarding this, I wish to make the following points: