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Angelina Jolie was in Thailand this week as part of a UNHCR visit to discuss refugees. During her visit, she made an emotive plea to the Thai government, urging them to free thousands of Burmese refugees who have been held in camps for up to 20 years.

“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,” she told reporters. “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. As with all people, they deserve to have their human rights respected.”

Jolie visited the Ban Mai Nai Soi refugee centre in Northern Thailand on Wednesday, and witnessed the living conditions of the refugees firsthand. She spent time talking to the refugees, and was able to give out soccer balls donated by the UNHCR to children in the camp.

Over 111,000 registered Burmese refugees live in nine camps along the Thai-Myanmar border. They are not allowed to venture outside the camps to work or receive higher education.

“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,” she told the refugees she met.

Jolie is well known for her hands-on approach to working with refugees and wrote a book titled Notes From My Travels about her experiences. The book is available here.

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