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UN Envoy Visits Major Burmese Prison - 2002-10-27

The United Nations envoy for human rights has visited a major prison in Burma, as part of his fact-finding mission. The U.N. envoy has been interviewing Burma's political prisoners.

U.N. envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro traveled north of Rangoon Sunday to visit the Tharawaddy Prison, where many of Burma's political dissidents are detained. U.N. officials say that the envoy is looking into complaints that the prisoners are not receiving adequate medical treatment.

Mr. Pinheiro went to Insein Prison last week as part of his nearly two-week mission to investigate the human rights conditions in Burma.

Amnesty International and other rights group say Burma's military government is holding more than 1,000 political prisoners.

Several hundred members of the opposition National League for Democracy have been freed since the military government began reconciliation talks with the NLD, two years ago under United Nations guidance. Those talks have led to a general easing of restrictions on the NLD, but have yet to yield any concrete results on moving Burma toward democracy.

The military refused to hand over power to the National League of Democracy after it won a massive victory in elections in 1990.

U.N. envoy Pinheiro has met with NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was only released from house arrest earlier this year.

Mr. Pinheiro's team has also been meeting with the ruling generals, and ethnic minority leaders. The envoy did turn down a government invitation to visit Shan state, where there have been allegations that the military has been using rape as a weapon in part of its fight against rebels. Mr. Pinheiro said he would not have enough time to properly investigate the claims.

The U.N. team will wrap up its visit this week and prepare its report for the U.N. next month.