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UN Envoy Meets with Burma's PM - 2003-11-04


A United Nations human rights envoy has met with Burma's Prime Minister Khin Nyunt as part of an on going investigation into abuses in that country. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, has also requested a meeting with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi who has been detained by the military government for the past five months.

United Nations special envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro asked to meet Prime Minister Khin Nyunt during a meeting with Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung Monday - the first official day of his weeklong trip to Rangoon. Mr. Pinheiro's visit focuses on the clashes last May that led to the detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and senior leaders of her National League for Democracy party. He is also to examine reports by human rights groups that accuse the Burmese military of using rape and other forms of violence to intimidate ethnic minorities in rebel zones in northern Shan State.

The Burmese government denies wrongdoing. It says it placed Aung San Suu Kyi in protective custody for her own safety after the clashes and that the reports of systematic rape are untrue.

Mr. Pinheiro is to present his report to the United Nations next week.

The coordinator for the ALTSEAN-Burma pressure group, Debbie Stothard, says that despite some positive developments in the past 18 months, the overall human rights situations in Burma has deteriorated. She calls it a case of one step forward, two steps back. "The Burmese military regime has had too much of a honeymoon already," she says. "And they've used the past few months as an opportunity to consolidate and strengthen its regime instead of moving towards political dialogue."

Ms. Stothard says the U.N. General Assembly needs to place the Burma case before the Security Council and adopt a stronger position on the issue.

It is Mr. Pinheiro's second visit to Burma this year. He cut short a previous visit last March after discovering a secret listening device planted in a room where he was interviewing a political prisoner.

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