Falun Gong detainees find Norway home

Bangkok, Thailand - Eight people connected to China's outlawed Falun Gong sect who have been detained in Thailand for the past month will depart Monday night for Norway where they have been a "permanent home," a Falun Gong spokesperson said.

"The United Nations has found a permanent home in Norway for the remaining five Falun Gong refugees detained in Thailand and their three family members," said a Falun Gong statement released in Bangkok.

The eight Chinese nationals were among ten Falun Gong members and their children who were rounded up by Thai Immigration police on December 15, last year, while holding a demonstration outside the Chinese embassy in Bangkok to protest the alleged rape of two Falun Gong practitioners by Chinese police in Hebei province.

The protesters, charged with not carrying their passports, have been kept at the Bangkok Immigration Detention Centre.

Falun Gong, which claims to be a religious sect, is outlawed in China. China has been known to put pressure on its close allies, such as Thailand, to suppress the group's activities.

One of the Falun Gong practitioners detained in Thailand and his son departed for New Zealand on January 15. The others will reportedly leave for Norway on Scandinavian Airlines SK 972 at 9 p.m. local time, said Teressa, a Falun Gong spokesperson in Bangkok.

"All 10 Falun Gong practitioners are refugees who escaped China and were living in Thailand under the protection of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees," said a Falun Gong press release.

Neither the UNHCR office in Bangkok nor the Norwegian embassy could confirm the planned departure of the Falun Gong "refugees."

"I won't say they haven't got a possibility of going to Norway but I haven't seen the documents here," said an official at Norway's visa section.