Envoy's requests to visit Burma meet with silence, continued detentions

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2003--U.N. human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro says he will reconsider his mandate to engage the Burmese military government in dialogue if the junta fails to make progress on human rights, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

"I am very sad that until now there are several hundreds of prisoners that continue in prison," Pinheiro told RFA's Burmese service. "But if I don't see any development in the situation, I will be obliged to revise my commitment to this mandate."

Pinheiro, who has travelled to Burma every November for the last three years in an attempt to engage the authorities in a dialogue on human rights, said he had already signalled his readiness to visit at any time to the military government in Rangoon. "I didn't receive any answer," he said. "And I think that this is a serious obstacle to any discussion or any possibility of dialogue inside the country."

The envoy said he had also repeatedly called for the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, along with other opposition activists detained after a crackdown in May. He has also called on the authorities to provide information on exactly who died in May 30 attacks on a pro-democracy rally, which were carried out by government-hired gangs.

"This is a situation that complicates any discussion about the country," Pinheiro said, adding that the last official news the United Nations had received of Aung San Suu Kyi came during the visit of human rights envoy Razali Ismail to Rangoon in June.

Razali reported at the time that the leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) was "well and in good spirits" and that she was unhurt.

"In principle... my mission takes place in November," he said. "But I have to weigh the developments of the situation because it's not normal having Aung San Suu Kyi in prison. I have asked the authorities to invite me for a visit any time, [and] I informed the authorities that I�m ready to go there at any moment. But up to now I didn�t receive anything."

"In view of the circumstances, I am prepared to revise my approach, to revise my discussions with the authorities. I am really very worried, and I expect that the authorities will understand the situation and release Aung San Suu Kyi and her colleagues."

Pinheiro also said he had just received an explanation from the Burmese government regarding his discovery of a microphone at In Sein Prison during a visit there in March. But he declined to elaborate, saying only that he would publish his report to the U.N. General Assembly on Nov. 10.

RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia.

Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content. #####


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