Monday, November 12, 2007

Myanmar update

YANGON (AFP) — A top UN human rights official Monday visited Myanmar's notorious Insein prison as part of his probe into rights abuses and the actual death toll from the junta's suppression of pro-democracy protests.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who has been allowed back into Myanmar by the regime for the first time in four years, is on a mission to uncover how many people were killed and arrested in the September crackdown by security forces.

The UN expert, who arrived in Myanmar on Sunday, is also seeking to meet political detainees and investigate claims of abuses against ethnic minority groups before leaving the country on Thursday.

Pinheiro visited the Insein jail outside Yangon for about two hours, Myanmar's state television reported in the evening news. He was accompanied by UN and government officials, and escorted by police, witnesses said.

Neither the Myanmar news nor a statement by the UN revealed whether the envoy had actually met any inmates.

"He is expecting to interview detainees before the end of his mission and receive further details on their records," the UN said in a statement.

The UN expert left the country in 2003 after learning his meeting with a political prisoner in Insein had been bugged.

Pinheiro also visited two monasteries, met government officials and went to see a police command headquarters and a technical college in Yangon where detainees were held during the demonstrations, the UN said.

In related news, Ibrahim Gambari's visit ended a few days ago. On Friday, Aung San Suu Kyi met a junta official and members of her party, the National League for Democracy.

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