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UN Official Condemns Burma's Crackdown on Opposition


A United Nations investigator has condemned the military rulers of Burma for using excessive force in cracking down on pro-democracy protesters last September. The expert, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who was allowed to visit Burma last month, presented a report to the UN Human Rights Council on the rights situation in Burma. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The U.N. special investigator, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, accuses the Burmese government of covering up the number of people killed during the pro-democracy protests.

The government claims 15 people were killed. But, Pinheiro says in his report the number is at least twice that.

According to Pinheiro, the military rulers may have secretly cremated bodies to hide their numbers and identities. He says he learned from credible sources that a large number of bodies wrapped in plastic and rice bags were burned during the night between September 27 and 30.

He says he continues to receive reports of arrests.

"It is estimated that between 3,000 and 4,000 people were arrested in September and October and probably between 500 and 1,000 are still detained at the time of my writing this report. In addition, 1,150 political prisoners held prior to the protests have not been released," he said.

Pinheiro is calling on the Burmese government to release all prisoners and stop making further arrests. He says he is particularly disturbed by reports that some prisoners are held in secret facilities. He says people who have been released describe degrading conditions of detention and the practice of torture.

Pinheiro says he finds the level of violence against monks particularly disturbing since the non-political grievances expressed by them were widely shared by the population.

Burmese Ambassador Wunna Maung Lwin, calls Pinheiro's report disappointing. He says it does not reflect the true situation on the ground and lacks objectivity.

"His report is very intrusive and full of false allegations which we totally reject. His report was not based on reality. Instead it was very much relying on distorted information provided by anti-government sources," he said.

Pinheiro is calling on the Burmese government to allow an international commission of inquiry to investigate reports of killings, beatings, torture and disappearances. He also urges the Burmese military to continue its dialogue with pro-democracy leader and Nobel Laureate, Aung San Sui Kyi.

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