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Thai gov't upset over Angelina Jolie comment on refugees

Last week American actress Angelina Jolie visited Thailand’s Ban Mai Nai Soi camp which houses more than 18,000 refugees from Myanmar. Jolie is Goodwill Ambassador of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The government of Thailand is upset over the visit and Jolie’s comments on the plight of the refugees.

Jolie also expressed concern for the Rohingya whose situation has caught the world’s attention:

“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,”

“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”

Thailand is accused of abandoning and mistreating hundreds of Rohingya refugees who escaped Myanmar.

Below is a video clip on Youtube which shows Jolie’s visit in Thailand:

Thailand’s foreign minister warned UNHCR “that they should not comment on the matter because they have no mandate.” The minister added:

“The UNHCR should not have brought Jolie, its goodwill ambassador, to one of the nine refugee camps stringing the border which are run by Thailand's interior ministry.”

“The Thai government will issue a reprimand letter to UNHCR, asking why it allowed Angelina Jolie to visit the refugee camps.”

Bangkok Pundit believes that Jolie’s criticism was only mild:

Reprimand letter? As others have noted, Jolie’s criticism was not strongly worded and more implied than a direct Thai-government-is-evil statement. Yet, even such mild criticism has the Foreign Ministry in a hissy fit. Next time, the UNHCR should have invite someone like Sean Penn and there will surely be fireworks….

Pierre agrees that Jolie did not say anything directly critical of Thailand:

Jolie doesn't seem to say anything directly critical of Thailand, its government, or policies. What she does do, though, is draw attention to the plight of refugees and so-called “economic migrants” in Thailand.

Fear from Freedom, a Burmese blogger, is unhappy over the “western imposed democracy in eastern countries” and urges Jolie to ask the United States to accept Mexican workers in its borders:

“The international news we read this week about my country is sick as well, Angelina Jolie asked Thailand to accept the Burmese refugees. She should also ask US to accept the Mexican workers…The pictures show normal life like any other villages in Myanmar except that the victims were caged in that area for some people to tap funds from governments…There will always be problem with western imposed democracy in eastern countries as long as people do not understand the culture and stages of development of different parts of the globe.”

refugee
Angelina Jolie at a refugee camp in Thailand. Photo from UNHCR

Namizon, a Thai citizen, insists that Thailand has been very generous in accepting refugees from neighboring countries:

“…Did you know that Thais have always supported refugees from all nations around Thailand? We have refugee camps for Burmese-Kayan, Hmong-Laotian, Cambodian, etc. Thailand is just a small developing country; although we Thais have the heart, kindness and the willingness to help all those unfortunate people. We always try our best to support them, yet we still lack many resources; space, money, manpower and jobs to support the refugees.

“From my point of view, Thai government has a priority to take care of Thai people first. Call me selfish but that’s all the governments in all countries do, isn’t it? Even American Government does.

“The war in Viet Nam and Laos – which government took the major part in? American? Can I say that American Troops is the reason all these refugees flee their countries into Thailand? I’m not playing the blame game here, but isn’t it the right thing American Government has to do? Clearing up their mess after what they did? Instead of having a permanent camp in Thailand, American should offer to take ALL people affected by the war to relocate to USA. The fact? US only takes educated-skilled labors; doctor, teacher, religion leader, etc. That’s why the resettlement process is taking so long. Americans only wants USEFUL refugees. Those who didn’t pass “the bar” get left behind and stuck in Thai camp, cannot return to the countries they fled, cannot go to America.”

The Nation, Thailand’s top English broadsheet, points to Myanmar as the cause of the refugee problem:

“We don't need to dance to Jolie's tune just because she is a Hollywood superstar. What we need to do is come up with a sound policy that is based on legal and humanitarian principles. Instead of blaming Jolie, who has the luxury of walking away from this after a few days of photo ops, why don't we start talking about the root cause of the problem? Or is that against the unwritten rules of Asean when it comes to “domestic matters” in a neighbouring member country?

“This particular problem is caused by the Burmese junta – a source of headaches and heartache for Thailand, all Asean members and the international community.”

8 comments

  • G

    Angela Jolie is smoking hot and the Thai government should be grateful for her presence.

    Her hotness factor is the main ingredient that brings attention to these refugees.

    Keep it up Jolie!

  • TDoc

    To everyone’s knowledge, immigration is a universal problem. Yet, the issue could be unimaginably burdensome to a country with a GDP worth less than $250 billion, let alone the accompanying problems like crimes and job losses.

    Still, I think the Thai authorities shouldn’t deviate from the humanitarian issue by initiating any petty arguments. Jolie wasn’t even directly criticizing the Thail government. Plus, the Thai premier has admitted to CNN the refugees were towed back to sea by their authorities.

    A better solution to this for the Thai government is to seek cooperation in the region to help prevent the problem, rather than being in denial.

  • I am Khmer

    Good job Angie. Keep up the good work!!!
    Thai govt will not allow any refugees living in Thailand because Thai govt think of their past when Thais were Tai refugees running from the Mongol and Siamese refugees running from the Burmese, they ran into Khmer land and they were all helped by Khmer people as people can see Khmer numerals written on all over Thai currency today.
    In return Tai and Siamese betrayed Khmer people by robbing Khmer land and Khmer property and that’s why Thai govt always killed, turned refugees away or treated refugees so badly unless the UN paying Thailand in cash so Thailand can keep refugees a bit safe in Thailand.

  • Bob McClain

    The US does allow immigrants into our country and most of the ones I deal with and help are very very poor not above the bar as stated in the articles above. My wife and I work with the refugees and see the poverty and problems. Jolie should have been more vivid in her words. It is not however the Thai governments problem it is all mankinds problem when we allow a dictator to gencide and kill just because and has for over 20 years. These people have no freedom and when they get here to the US what a wonderful thing it is for them but remember they have only the clothes on their back somtimes, no english speaking, and no money, and have to repay their flight money back somehow and find a place to live here. In Thailand the Burmese refugees live in camps in the US most are living inthe slums st best in very crowded conditions. I love there people and they need all the help we all can give not just the Jolies of the world. We need leaders to get rid of fools as the leaders in Myanmar. Killing your children would make you flee and a refugee in quite a hurry. think about it. God Bless Jolie and all the refugees no matter what country. New refugees arrive in the US weekly from over ther so keep helping.

  • I am Khmer

    The Thai govt is a bunch of thief, liar, dishonor, disrespect, cruel, shameless….
    Thousand Khmer refugees were killed by Thai soldiers without the UN cash
    in 1979-1980.
    Even with the UN cash the rest of Khmer refugees were treated very badly by Thai soldiers in the refugee camp. Khmer children were beaten up by Thai soldiers because they played the Thai coins that have the Thai King picture on the coins.

    Thai were originated Tai people from Nanchao, China. Thai tonal speaking is Tai tonal speaking from China. Thai people were helped by Khmer people when the Mongol invading their land Nanchao. Khmer people taught Tai people of great Khmer civilization since the day Thai people running away from Nanchao.

    Khmer numerals are written on all Thai currency today to prove that Thai people prefer to have Khmer culture better than their own Tai culture because their Tai root and Tai culture were wiped out by the Mongol in China.

    When Khmer temple Preah Vihear became a world heritage on July 2008, Thai govt sent Thai soldiers to rob Khmer land and other Khmer temples along the border and claimed belonging to Thailand without shame.

    Thai govt can’t take any refugee living in Thailand, because Thai govt thinks of its past when Thai were Tai refugees rebelling against Khmer people for freedom at Sukhotei. Thai people can’t claim their land Nanchao back from China, so Thai people asked the Chinese Ming Emperor to help Thai attacking Khmer people at Angkor and that’s a reason Thai govt never allowed the refugees living in Thailand, except living in Thai prison or pay in cash to Thai govt. to have freedom in Thailand.

    Thai govt had to turn the Rohingya boat people away with guns to get the UN attention, so the UN can bring cash to pay Thailand just like when Thai soldiers killed thousand Khmer refugees at the border in 1979-1980 to get the UN attention. All Thailand need is cash, without cash no one can be survived with Thai soldiers in Thailand.

    Thai govt should thank to Angelina, because of the Angelina Khmer tattoo made in Thailand that makes Thailand famous for a tattoo place today.

  • […] [Read more] […]

  • […] This poll is also inspired by some recent news, such as the news about Angelina Jolie: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2009/02/11/thai-govt-upset-over-angelina-jolie-comment-on-refugees/ […]

  • […] I’ve decided to stay with the same blogger Mong Palatino, for the rest of this unit. I looked through more of his articles, and found that he had writen some recent posts around Southeast Asia, such as in Myanmar(Burma). This new post that I found is based about Thailand and Burma. It was posted in Febuary and it is called Thai gov’t upset over Angelina Jolie comment on refugees. […]

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