Jolie, Pitt visit Myanmar refugees in Thai camp

By AFP

June 18, 2010 Updated Feb 6, 2009 at 4:11 PM EDT

Hollywood star couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt visited Myanmar refugees in a Thai camp, including one woman who had been there for more than two decades, the UN said Friday.

Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the UN refugee agency, spent Wednesday in Thailand with Pitt, meeting refugees at the northern Ban Mai Nai Soi camp.

"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," the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported Jolie as saying.

The camp, three kilometres (two miles) from the Myanmar border, is home to more than 18,000 mainly ethnic Karen refugees who have no freedom of movement and are not allowed outside to seek work or higher education.

They fled crackdowns on ethnic rebel armies in military-ruled Myanmar.

"With no foreseeable chance that these refugees will soon be able to return to Burma, we must find some way to help them work and become self reliant," Jolie said, referring to Myanmar by its previous name.

Jolie previously visited the camp in 2004 and wanted to return to show her partner Pitt, UNHCR spokeswoman Kitty McKinsey said.

Ban Mai Nai Soi is the third largest of nine refugee camps in northern Thailand housing a total of 111,000 registered refugees.

Most refugees are from Myanmar's ethnic groups, including many Christians from the Karen minority.

Jolie urged Thai authorities to speed up the processing of 5,000 migrants who arrived in Mae Hong Son province in 2006 and 2007 after fighting across the border in Myanmar's Kayah state.

Her visit comes with Thailand in the spotlight for its treatment of ethnic Rohingya migrants arriving on its southern shores from Myanmar's north.

The Thai military is accused of pushing hundreds of the migrants back to sea in rickety boats without adequate food and water -- a charge it categorically denies.

Jolie said the fair treatment of refugees in the northern camps "makes me hope that Thailand will be just as generous to the Rohingya refugees who are now arriving on their shores."




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