Angelina Jolie visits refugee camp in Thailand, gets it wrong on Rohingya

The last time we wrote about Angelina Jolie it was to praise her good sense. She had visited Iraq and Iraqi refugees, and she spoke to the Council of Foreign Relations. (See our several posts on Jolie here.)  Way back in April, when almost everybody was convinced that all the Iraqi refugees had to be resettled in third countries, she said this:

“This population we’re talking about is the future of Iraq,” said Jolie, who has traveled twice to Iraq over the past year, as well as to Syria to visit Iraqi refugees. “So to reach them now, to help deal with their trauma and refocus their minds on a possible future should absolutely be one of our top priorities. We need these kids. . . . We need them to rebuild their country, to stabilize their country and eventually lead their country.”

Now the conventional wisdom has caught up to her. But Jolie is not as wise in her current refugee venture. The Associated Press reports:

BANGKOK (AP) — 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.

We’re not against respecting human rights, but Jolie needs to get some perspective on the Rohingya. Ann has written 62 posts on this group. Jolie needs to know that they are Muslim, some of them are trained as jihadists, they do not get along with other groups, they are highly aggressive and intimidate other people, and many other facts before she passes judgment. The article notes:

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.

Angelina Jolie is a bright woman. She should think over what she has learned and ask some Thais why it is that their country has been hospitable to these other refugees (many of whom are Christian) while turning away the Rohingya.

Update February 12, 2009: It looks like the Thai government didn’t like Jolie’s comments either. Thailand’s national news source, The Nation (no connection to the radical U.S. magazine of that name), headlines an article: Thai govt warns Jolie and UNHCR over comments on Rohingyas. The Foreign Ministry’s permanent secretary said:

“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,” Virasakdi told reporters.

Good for the Thai government, which recognizes that it, not the UN, is in charge of its own sovereignty and its own policies.

Jewish groups not in tune with all Jews on immigration reform

I am going away for a few days so this is going to be a quick post.

Although we try not to get too far off track from refugee issues into the broader immigration reform issue, this story got my attention because it involves the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society one of the top ten federal contractors for refugee resettlement. 

A coalition of Jewish community leaders is urging the reform of immigration policy before Passover begins on April 8.

Called “Progress by Pesach,” the campaign began with a Jan. 29 conference call to members of the Jewish media chaired by the president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Gideon Aronoff of South Orange.

Aronoff went on to say:

“We are calling upon President Obama and Congress to make immigration reform a top priority,” Aronoff said. “For too long, our government has relied primarily on enforcement, but immigration raids only cause suffering for immigrants and communities and do nothing to solve the underlying problem of immigration.”

Not all Jews support these groups.

But Stephen Steinlight, senior policy analyst at Center for Immigration Policy, disagreed strongly with those aims. Steinlight, a frequent critic of immigration policies promoted by the major Jewish policy groups, did not take part in the telephone conference.

“There is a gigantic chasm between those who purport to speak in the name of Jews and what real Jews think,” he told NJJN. Those promoting immigration reform “are dead wrong on this issue, and they do not represent Jews. It is an outrage that they claim to. Real Jews are horrified by the positions taken by Jewish defense agencies.”

I’m wondering if the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, that receives federal grant monies, is using any of those funds for lobbying efforts on immigration reform.  We keep hearing stories that the resettlement agencies (volags) are not adequately caring for refugees which should be taking priority over political activities.

It’s just like the issue now where taxpayers have every right to complain about practices of big businesses that took taxpayer funds in the bailout—once a group or business takes government (our) money it becomes everyone’s business how it is spent.