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Star Trek star 'shocked' by Myanmar refugees

One of the Star Trek actors was “shocked” at the plight of hundreds of thousands of refugees from military-ruled Myanmar who live in western Thailand.

Walter Koenig, who played Pavel Chekov, the cheeky Russian ensign aboard the Starship Enterprise, visited Thailand's western border region over the weekend to meet refugees who fled Myanmar's oppressive military regime, he said Monday.

Koenig visited a medical clinic that treats refugees in an effort to garner world attention for the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, also known as Burma, he said.

"I was shocked at how little I knew," Koenig, 70, said, referring to the hundreds of thousands of refugees living along the border in Thailand. "The time was right in my life to be a part of something that is worthwhile. It's one thing to espouse a liberal and political attitude - and quite another to act on it."

The United States Campaign for Burma, an activist group based in Washington, D.C., organized the trip to northwest Thailand where he met civilians suffering from battle injuries and disease.

Star Trek fans share a value system that will help connect them to the refugees and shine a spotlight on their plight, Koenig said.

"In the original series, we were an international, interethnic, interracial community," Koenig said. "People have responded to that for 40 years and I think there's a sense of benevolence and humanity in the fans. Their nerdiness not withstanding makes them good company to get the word out."

He is recruiting celebrity friends to join the effort, potentially including his fellow Star Trek cast member, George Takei - known as Mr. Sulu in the series.

Some 3,000 ethnic Karen villages in Myanmar's eastern region have been destroyed by the country's military, said Jeremy Woodrum, USCB's campaigns director.

"People don't know twice as many villages have been destroyed in Eastern Burma than in Darfur," Woodrum said. "It's totally lost on the United States and the world."

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962, the latest junta emerging after a brutal 1988 crackdown on pro-democracy protests. The military has been widely accused of atrocities against ethnic minorities and of suppressing the democracy movement led by detained Nobel Peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

Koenig's son, Andrew, 38, filmed his week-long trip. Footage, as well as Koenig's personal written accounts during his trip, will be available on his Web site.

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