YANGON: Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie on Friday urged Myanmar to ensure those who commit sexual violence are brought to justice after “moving and humbling” meetings with victims in the country’s conflict-torn north.
The Oscar-winning star, who is also a special envoy for the United Nations’ refugee agency, arrived in Myanmar on Wednesday, meeting President Thein Sein in the capital Naypyidaw before heading to Kachin state in the north, where civil war has raged since 2011 displacing some 100,000 people.
“This visit underlined the vulnerability of women and girls living in protracted conflict situations to sexual violence, trafficking, and other human rights violations. It was moving and humbling to meet survivors of sexual violence in Kachin State,” she said in a statement released by the British embassy.
She said local aid groups were working hard to help victims, but added there was “an urgent need for more medical assistance and legal and psychosocial support” as well as a “strong legal framework to ensure all perpetrators of sexual violence are held accountable”.
Myanmar is still beset by the legacy of dozens of long-raging civil wars in its border areas, a handful of which are still being fought.
The army, which ruled the country with an iron fist for decades before handing power to Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government in 2011, has long been accused of severe human rights abuses including sexual violence and using forced labor. Rebels have also been accused of abuses.
Jolie’s visit comes after an invitation from opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, according to the British Embassy, which is working with the actress as part of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, which promotes prosecutions of sexual violence perpetrators.
Few details of Jolie’s trip, her first to the country, have been released but she is thought unlikely to be able to travel to Rakhine state, where hundreds of thousands of Myanmar’s minority Muslim Rohingya live in discriminatory and often grim conditions.
Jolie flew to Myanmar after a brief visit to Cambodia where she plans to direct a film for Netflix about Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime seen through the eyes of a war-scarred child.