U.N. Envoy Meets With Burmese Ethnic Minorities, Suu Kyi

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The United Nations human rights envoy to Burma, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, was to conclude a six-day fact-finding visit to Burma this weekend following talks with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of the country's ethnic minorities, RFA's Burmese service reports.

Pinheiro is expected to brief the U.N. General Assembly on his visit Nov 12. He has met on this visit with 14 representatives of various ethnic minority groups in Burma, as well as with Aung San Suu Kyi. Pinheiro declined to comment in detail on those talks.

One minority representative contacted by RFA's Burmese service, United Nationalities Alliance leader Khun Tun Oo, said, "Mr. Pinheiro met with me and two colleagues Thursday morning for over an hour. He said the discussions would be helpful to him, and that he didn't want our talks to be made public, that he would discuss the relevant details of his trip at a press conference."

Pinheiro met with Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday at her Rangoon residence, where she remains under house arrest. He was the first person to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi since U.N. envoy Razali Ismail�s visit Oct. 1. The United States and its allies have sharply condemned Aung San Suu Kyi�s continued house arrest following what witnesses describe as a deadly ambush on her convoy May 30 by government-led gangs.

On Wednesday, Pinheiro met with 20 political prisoners at Rangoon�s infamous Insein Prison. He reported that the ailing prisoners were �stable� but added, �the prison is awful, in terrible condition.�

�I am not just coming to monitor their situation but to demonstrate to the government that it is crucial to release all the political prisoners,� he said.

Pinheiro also met with junta leader Gen. Khin Nyunt. He later described their talks as positive. �I had the opportunity to share many aspects of my report [on human rights abuses]� and proposed ways to promote and implement basic human rights,� he told reporters.

Pinheiro abruptly ended a visit to Burma in March after discovering bugging devices in the machines he used to record interviews with political prisoners. He is the only foreigner�aside from U.N. envoy Razali Ismail and the International Committee of the Red Cross�to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi since the May 30 ambush.

In its 2002 report on human rights around the world, the U.S. State Department described the regime's human rights record as "extremely poor," citing "numerous serious abuses."

"Citizens did not have the right to change their government. In ethnic minority areas, security forces continued to commit extrajudicial killings and rape, forcibly relocated persons, used forced labor, and conscripted child soldiers. Disappearances continued, and members of the security forces tortured, beat, and otherwise abused prisoners and detainees. Citizens were subjected to arbitrary arrest without appeal. Arrests and detention for expression of dissenting political views occurred on numerous occasions," it said.#####


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