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UN Human Rights Expert Mocks Burma's Commitment to Democracy

The United Nations human rights expert on Burma says the Burmese government's repressive actions do not reflect its pledge to make democratic reforms.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro Friday said Burma's claim that it is committed to democracy is as believable as imaginary creatures - "gnomes, trolls and elves".

He delivered a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council this week, accusing the military government of detaining nearly 2,000 political prisoners.

Earlier today, Pinheiro said he had been granted a travel visa to Burma, but the U.N. later said the envoy was mistaken. Pinheiro has been barred from Burma for several months.

Burma's government plans to hold a constitutional referendum in May, and elections in 2010.

Burmese activists called on the public today to vote "no" on the constitutional referendum. They say it will prolong the military's decades-long domination of the country.

A group called the "88 Generation Students" said voters do not need to be afraid, because authorities have no right to arrest people for voting against the charter.

The activists are former students who led a pro-democracy protest crushed by the military in 1988. The government violently put down another pro-democracy demonstration last year.

The new constitution would bar detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from elections.

Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy won Burma's last general elections in 1990. But the government has refused to recognize the results of those elections.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.