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UN Human Rights Envoy Urges Coordinated Effort On Burma


United Nations human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro says the international community owes it to the people of Burma to come up with a coordinated response to the Burmese military government's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from Bangkok, where Pinheiro spoke after a five-day visit to Burma.

U.N. human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro spent five days in Burma on a mission to see the extent of human rights violations committed during and after the Burmese military government's crackdown on peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrators in September.

His visit was tightly controlled by Burmese authorities. In the end, Pinheiro emerged with an updated figure on the number of dead. He said the Burma government told him 14 Burmese nationals were killed in the unrest, up from the previous official figure of 10. Pinheiro says he is not in a position to say whether the updated figure is accurate. Many international observers estimate the actual number of dead is much higher.

Speaking to reporters in Bangkok Friday, Pinheiro said he recommends that the international community continue to put Burma high on its agenda and coordinate efforts to address the plight of Burma's people.

"The international community is supposed to do this to honor these young people, those women, the students, the monks, who assumed an enormous risk by going to the streets to participate, to fight for the freedom of assembly, the freedom of opinion," said Pinheiro. "I think it's time for the international community to show some competence, some professionalism in terms of addressing the issues that the protesters were asking."

Pinheiro's visit comes ahead of a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, in Singapore, where Burma's neighbors are expected to discuss the approach to take in response to the crackdown.

Human rights advocates say hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people have been rounded up since the crackdown.

During his visit to Burma, the U.N. envoy was allowed to visit Rangoon's notorious Insein prison where many political prisoners are held. He met with some dissidents, but was not allowed to see opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for most of the past 18 years.

Pinheiro on Friday called on the Burmese government to release those who remain in prison.

He is due to present a full report to the United Nations on December 11.

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