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UN Envoy Criticizes Burmese Junta on Plans for Democracy - 2003-11-13

The U.N.'s human rights envoy to Burma says the country's proposed road map to democracy can't move forward because the government has no plans to release political prisoners or lift restrictions on freedom of expression.

Brazilian ambassador Paulo Sergio Pinheiro says he is skeptical of Burma's prospects for democratization because the military government won't set a timeframe for establishing a new constitution that allows input from all parties, including the opposition NLD, the National League for Democracy.

"I cannot certify the plan from my perceptive that keeps 1,300 prisoners, that detains the central committee of the NLD and the general secretary of the NLD, doesn't for the time being now, doesn't allow the other parties to operate. I want to know when, when this will happen.

Mr. Pinheiro, who recently returned from a fact-finding trip to Burma, also known as Myanmar, said the prisoners are not being abused, but expressed frustration that his efforts have not succeeded in persuading Rangoon to release them. He encouraged the international community and neighboring Asian countries to intervene.

The envoy met with political prisoners during the five-day trip to investigate allegations of human rights abuses, including the detention of NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The government has released her from house arrest but the Nobel-Peace Prize laureate has refused freedom for herself until the remaining 100 or so members of her party, who have been detained since May 30, are released.

Meanwhile, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced Wednesday that an international forum to discuss Burma's road map to national reconciliation should be held soon, to attempt to resolve the political deadlock in Burma.