Thailand detailed its enforcement of UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions in an implementation report submitted in December, revealing that it had denied visas to several DPRK citizens seeking training in satellite technology as well as incidents involving maritime inspections.
The report, dated December 7, covers UNSC resolutions 2270 (2016), 2321 (2016), 2371 (2017) and 2375 (2017) and is the country’s first submitted report since 2009.
“The Department of Consular Affairs rejected the visa applications of four nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea who were to attend a training course on satellite-related technology in Thailand,” the report reads.
According to UNSC Resolutions, member states are prohibited from providing training “which could contribute to the DPRK’s proliferation sensitive nuclear activities or the development of nuclear weapons delivery systems.”
While Pyongyang insists that its domestic space program and satellite technology is “peaceful” and that it has a right to develop it, the country’s National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA) was sanctioned by the UNSC in 2016 for its involvement in developing ballistic missile-related technology.
Concerns over North Korean citizens participating in space-related training overseas have been raised previously by the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) tasked with monitoring sanctions enforcement.
In 2016, it was reported that the DPRK had sent 30 students over the last two decades to the Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific (CSSTEAP) in India.
“(Participation) in the space and atmospheric science and global navigation satellite systems courses is a ballistic missile-related activity prohibited under the resolutions,” the 2016 PoE report reads.
“The report confirms that North Korea is still actively seeking to train its people overseas in disciplines relevant to its nuclear and missile programs,” Andrea Berger, a Senior Research Associate and a Senior Program Manager at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told NK News.
Thailand’s December implementation report also detailed several instances of sanctions enforcement activities on the high seas.
In one case in March an unnamed member state informed Thailand that North Korean coal was aboard a DPRK flagged ship – the Tai An – which was bound for a Thai port.
“It was found that a Thai company had placed the order for the coal which, on paper, appeared to be from China,” the report reads.
“In the light of the relevant Security Council resolutions, the Thai authorities concerned advised the company against the import. The Company later decided to suspend the importation. The vessel was then steered away from Thai territorial waters,” it added.
The Tai An still appears on public shipping databases sailing with a Togolese flag, but this information may be out of date.
North Korean coal is currently subject to a total export ban under UNSC Resolution 2371. At the time of the interdiction, Resolution 2321 placed restrictions on the amount of North Korean coal that could be imported by member states, providing that it was not contributing to proliferation activities.
According to a leaked interim PoE report, North Korea sought to ship coal to South East Asian countries – including Thailand – following China’s suspension of coal imports in February of 2017.
“The panel also wrote to Thailand regarding a shipment originally destined for that country which upon being refused entry was subsequently rerouted to Vietnam,” the report read.
North Korea’s continued attempts to export sanctioned commodities is a factor that countries around the world need to be aware of, Berger told NK News.
“Too many countries assume that just because they have no recorded, direct trade with the DPRK in a sanctioned commodity, that they are not importing those goods. Thailand was clearly one of them, until they learnt first-hand how DPRK coal is being made to appear as if it originated in China,” Berger said.
In another case, also in March, a DPRK flagged vessel – the Okasan – “entered Thai territorial waters without prior permission.”
Thai authorities then detained the vessel for inspection and an investigation of its crew. The report says that the vessel was on its way to be sold to a registered Thai company.
“The Marine Department informed the company that owning and registering a vessel flagged by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was prohibited by resolutions 2270 (2016) and 2321 (2016),” the report read.
“The vessel had to be refuelled and replenished with food and water supplies for humanitarian reasons. The vessel left Thai territorial waters on 22 March 2017.”
Thai agencies are cooperating with the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs following requests from the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) and other nations in relation to verifying information on several ships, the report added.
Examples listed include the Ocean Maritime Management Company Limited (OMM), Gooryong Shipping Company, and Okasan.
The OMM and its vessels were designated by the UNSC following the 2013 interdiction of the Chong Chon Gang in Panama, when it was discovered to be carrying a range of weapons systems from Cuba to North Korea hidden under 200,000 bags of sugar.
Thai authorities also asked for the UN’s 1718 committee to issue a unified list of prohibited items and their Harmonized System codes (HS codes) to aid sanctions enforcement, which Berger called “an easily-overlooked plea for help.”
“In light of the complexity and rapidly evolving nature of the sanctions regime, Thailand has asked specifically for the UN to provide a consolidated list of prohibited goods and accompanying harmonized System codes,” she said.
“These are not the most exciting practicalities, but they are hugely important for facilitating global compliance.”
The report also reveals that in 1990 and 1991, two DPRK entities were granted permission to invest in ore mines in Thailand but later withdrew.
“Their rights and benefits under the investment promotion programme were terminated 8 years ago, after the cancellation of the projects,” it said.
Thailand also reported that it issued USD$30,000 in emergency aid via the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies office in Beijing in 2016, following severe flooding in North Korea caused by Typhoon Lionrock.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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Featured Image: Skyscappers of Bangkok by Kumaravel on 2013-07-16 10:42:36