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Old 02-06-09, 07:26 AM
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Jolie visits camp for refugees from Myanmar

Jolie visits camp for refugees from Myanmar
By GRANT PECK, Associated Press Writer – 26 mins ago

BANGKOK – Angelina Jolie, a Hollywood star deeply involved in the plight of refugees, has called on the Thai government to respect the human rights of Myanmar's Rohinyga boat people whom Thai authorities have pushed out to sea in recent weeks, a U.N. spokeswoman said Friday.

Jolie and her partner, Brad Pitt, are on a visit to Thailand, where on Wednesday they toured one of several camps along the Thai-Myanmar border sheltering refugees from Myanmar's military regime.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Kitt McKinsey told AP Television News that it was a coincidence that Jolie's visit came just as the plight of the Rohingyas was catching world attention.

The Rohingya, denied citizenship in their native land, have been trying to land in Thailand after treacherous sea journeys only to be towed back to sea and cast adrift by the Thai Navy. Indian officials, who rescued some, believe hundreds perished.

"She was extremely touched by the plight of the Rohingya people. She expressed the hope that the human rights of the Rohingya people will be respected just as the human rights of everyone in the world should be respected," McKinsey 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," Jolie was earlier quoted as saying.

The Rohingya, from western Myanmar, represent just a part of Myanmar's refugee exodus.

For decades, hundreds of thousands of others — most from other ethnic minorities — have fled by land across the country's eastern border to Thailand.

Most are civilians caught up in fighting between Myanmar government troops and ethnic insurgents. Many flee to Thai refugee camps, where they remain for years with little chance of resettlement in third countries.

On Wednesday, Jolie slapped a bright blue U.N. baseball cap on her head and toured the bamboo huts of the Ban Mai Nai Soi camp, home to 18,111 mainly ethnic Karenni refugees, just two miles (three kilometers) from the Myanmar border, near the northern Thai town of Mae Hong Son.

There are between 116,000 and 135,000 refugees at camps along the border.

Jolie, 33, sat down in a two-room house on stilts and talked with a female refugee, according to an account of the visit given Thursday in a press release by the U.N. refugee agency.

Jolie asked one 26-year-old woman, Pan Sein, whether she was afraid when she made her perilous journey last year from her home village in Myanmar's Kayah State.

"Yes, I was scared," Pan Sein replied. "It was dangerous to flee, but even more dangerous to stay in my village."

This was Jolie's third visit to Thailand to meet with refugees and her mission has taken her to more than 20 countries to comfort the unwanted.

"I was saddened to meet a 21-year-old woman who was born in a refugee camp, who has never even been out of the camp and is now raising her own child in a camp," Jolie said.

Thailand recognizes most at the border camps as refugees with legitimate fear of returning to their homeland, but does not accord the Muslim Rohingyas the same status, and seeks to send them away.

"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.

McKinsey said the couple arrived in Thailand by private jet and were now on "private time." She said she did not know when they would leave the country.

Jolie visits camp for refugees from Myanmar - Yahoo! News
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