Japanese group to meet with relatives of kidnapped Thai woman

Members of a support group for Japanese kidnapped by North Korea left Wednesday for Thailand to meet with the relatives of a Thai woman who reportedly has lived in the North since her abduction in the 1970s.

Thai authorities are pressing North Korea for details on Anocha Panjoy, a Thai woman allegedly abducted from the then-Portuguese colony of Macau where she was working in 1978. North Korea denies abducting Anocha or that she is living in the country. Teruaki Masumoto, head of the Association of Kidnapped Japanese Families by North Korea, and Tsutomu Nishioka, a member of the group, were to meet with Anocha's brother on Thursday in Thailand's northern Chiang Mai province, the group said in a statement.

Masumoto said he hoped that by working with the Thai woman's family, the plight of kidnapping victims would gain greater attention. "We think we need to cooperate with families of the victims and appeal to the world that kidnapping victims are not just Japanese and South Koreans," he said as he was leaving for Bangkok.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported that the two Japanese were carrying a message from Hitomi Soga, who was abducted by the North in 1978 and lived there until her release in 2002, offering help in rescuing Anocha.

The Thai woman's case came to light in the autobiography of U.S. Army deserter Robert Jenkins, who abandoned his unit and fled to North Korea in 1965. Jenkins said in his book that he knew Anocha in North Korea.

Jenkins and Soga were married in the communist state but have since returned to Japan with their two daughters.

North Korea in 2002 acknowledged kidnapping about a dozen Japanese citizens to help train its spies, including Masumoto's sister, Rumiko. North Korea said she died of heart disease at age 26, reports the AP. Photo: AFP I.L.

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