Jolie urges Thailand to welcome Muslim refugees

Thu Feb 5, 2009 12:32pm EST
 
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GENEVA (Reuters) - Angelina Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations refugee agency, urged Thailand on Thursday to welcome Muslim refugees fleeing Myanmar.

Thailand's treatment of the Rohingyas, an oppressed Muslim minority from mainly Buddhist Myanmar, has been widely condemned as evidence emerges that hundreds were rounded up by the Thai military and towed out to sea.

Jolie issued the plea during a visit to camps in northern Thailand which house 111,000 mostly Christian ethnic Karen refugees from Myanmar.

"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," the Oscar-winning actress said in a statement issued by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Since becoming goodwill ambassador for the Geneva-based agency in 2001, Jolie has visited refugees in more than 20 hotspots including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan.

Two Rohingya boat people found off Indonesia this week said they were rounded up and beaten by the Thai army before being cast adrift in rickety, engineless boats.

Thailand's military has admitted towing hundreds out to sea and cutting them adrift, but insisted they had adequate food and water and denied reports the boats' engines were sabotaged.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay)

 
<p>Angelina Jolie poses during a news conference to promote her movie "Changeling" in Tokyo January 30, 2009. REUTERS/Michael Caronna</p>