Rev Jackson full of praise for Thaksin

The Nation - Saturday, November 08, 2003

Reverend Jesse Jackson said before leaving Bangkok yesterday that his meeting with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had been 'most significant'.

Jackson said Thaksin had assured him that he would visit Ban Kwai refugee camp in Mae Hong Son province and ensure the refugees there are better cared for.

'He has agreed to go and see them and ... agreed to improve their living conditions,' said Jackson, referring to the camp that is populated by 18,256 mostly ethnic Karennis who have fled the repressive military junta in Burma.

Human-rights groups earlier expressed concern over Thaksin's plan to shut down all the camps.

He praised Thaksin's leadership. 'I was impressed by his willingness to be a link between the Pacific Rim and the US. Thailand will emerge as the biggest force in the region.'

Thaksin represents security, does not tolerate corruption and has a sound knowledge of the United States, Jackson added.

Although Thaksin told the media on Thursday that he would not pressure Burma to change, Jackson insisted that change in Burma was 'irreversible', adding that the PM must be the bridge-builder and ensure that those in camps have 'safe refuge'.

Jackson he was concerned about the possible repercussions of bilateral free-trade agreements between the US and Thailand and other countries in undermining multilateral trade agreements under the aegis of the World Trade Organisation.

When asked about the prime minister allegedly condoning over 2,000 extrajudicial killings by the police in the war against drugs, his refusal to reveal the names of the dead, and accusations of the premier buying off and manipulating local media and government restrictions on anti-war protests, Jackson said: 'Obviously I couldn't address all those issues... Conflicts exist in all societies and should be dealt with through dialogue and not violence.'

Pravit Rojanaphruk