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UN Envoy Wraps Up Visit to Burma - 2003-11-07


A United Nations envoy is wrapping up a visit to Burma to investigate the human rights situation. U.N. envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro met with ethnic minority groups as well as with Aung San Suu Kyi and other pro-democracy leaders.

U.N. envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro met with the head of the Shan National League for Democracy party. The party, which represents the Shan ethnic minority group, won the second largest number of parliamentary seats in Burma's 1990 elections but was not allowed to take office.

The National League for Democracy, or NLD, swept those elections but was not allowed to govern.

Mr. Pinheiro also met with NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi who is detained at her home in Rangoon. He held a separate meeting with leaders of the NLD executive committee who are being held at a government guesthouse. He declined to comment on the meetings.

The Brazilian diplomat earlier visited political prisoners at a prison outside Rangoon and also met with Burmese Prime Minister Khin Nyunt. He is to report to the U.N. General Assembly next week.

Mr. Pinheiro's visit comes as Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra prepares to visit Burma next week. Thailand and several other Asian governments have discreetly pressed Burma to open its political system and have proposed a road map toward democratization.

The Thai and other Asian governments espouse a policy of constructive engagement with Burma. This policy has been criticized by human rights groups and is in contrast with a policy of sanctions adopted by the U.S., European and Japanese governments.

Professor Chayachoke Chulasiriwong of Thailand's Chulalongkorn University says both policies may play a role in bringing greater political freedoms to Burma.

"Sanctions cannot totally get rid of the Burmese leaders," he said. "And having good relationships with the Burmese leaders - that also will not remove the way the leaders behave and that sort of thing. So I think we are [have] now come to a dead end."

Professor Chayachoke says as a result, the international community will have to wait for what he sees as a power struggle within the Burmese leadership to resolve itself before a consensus can emerge to move the government toward reform.

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