Jackson seeks to up pressure on Burma

The Nation - Thursday, November 06, 2003

High-profile US civil rights leader the Reverend Jesse Jackson yesterday called for increased pressure to be applied on Burma's military junta and appealed to the Thai government to treat refugees humanely.

Jackson made his calls after visiting the Ban Kwai displaced persons camp, about three kilometres from the Burmese border in the northern province of Mae Hong Son.

He is in Thailand as part of an international human-rights and peace campaign.

'They [the refugees] have the natural right to live in Burma in peace and have the international right to be here [in Thailand] while the former option is not yet possible,' Jackson said prior to his trip as he spoke at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on Tuesday.

The 18,256 residents of the camp, mainly belonging to the Karenni ethnic minority, have fled their homes in Burma due to brutal repression by the country's ruling junta.

The Thai government plans to close down all the refugee camps in the country, amid strong concerns from human-rights groups that repatriating them could put the refugees' lives in danger as political unrest in Burma continues.

Jackson called on the world community to 'apply more economic and diplomatic pressure' on the generals who rule Burma to compel them to stop the repression that causes refugees to flee to Thailand and other neighbouring countries.

The veteran rights campaigner also commented on Thailand's role after it received Major Non-Nato Ally status from Washington last month, saying that he hoped the Thai government would not trade off the needs of its people to the war in Iraq.

'We spend too much money on war [while] our children need education so they will not end up becoming child labour,' he said.

Jackson's visit to Thailand was arranged by the International Peace Foundation, which is organising a 'peace summit' of political leaders and Nobel Prize winners in Thailand from this month until April next year.

The Nation Channel (TTV 1) will broadcast Jackson's exclusive interview with Nation Group editor-in-chief Suthichai Yoon tomorrow at 10pm.

Nantiya Tangwisutijit