Hollywood couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt visited Myanmar refugees in a Thai camp listening to them describe difficulties faced while living two decades in closed camps. Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the UN refugee agency, spent Wednesday in Thailand with Pitt, and called on the Thai government to grant Myanmar refugees in northern Thailand greater freedom of movement.
Jolie’s visit came at a time of worldwide attention to the large numbers of Rohingya migrants fleeing Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state in rickety boats. (Jolie, right, in UNHCR photo)
“Visiting Ban Mai Nai Soi and seeing how hospitable Thailand has been to 111,000 mostly Karen and Karenni refugees over the years makes me hope that Thailand will be just as generous to the Rohingya refugees who are now arriving on their shores,” Jolie said.
“I also hope the Rohingya situation stabilizes and their life in Myanmar improves so the people do not feel the desperate need to flee, especially considering how dangerous their journey has become,” she added.
The Ban Mai Nai Soi camp is home to 18,111 registered refugees, just three kms from the Myanmar border, who have mostly fled from forced labour and other human rights abuses. They are not allowed to venture outside the camps to work or receive higher education.
“With no foreseeable chance that these refugees will soon be able to return to Burma (Myanmar), we must find some way to help them work and become self reliant,” she said.
At a boarding school for orphans and children separated from their parents, Jolie listened attentively as two teenage girls – sent across the border to the refugee camp by their parents for education – told of their fears that they might have to go back to Myanmar when they finish their schooling.
“I hope we can work with the Thai authorities to speed up the government admissions process and that you will not be forced to go back to Burma if danger remains,” Jolie said.