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UN Envoy Meets Burmese Political Prisoners, Aung San Suu Kyi


Visiting UN rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana (C) arrives for a meeting with Myanmar's speaker of the lower house of parliament, Thura Shwe Mann (not pictured), in Naypyidaw on August 23, 2011.

Visiting UN rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana (C) arrives for a meeting with Myanmar's speaker of the lower house of parliament, Thura Shwe Mann (not pictured), in Naypyidaw on August 23, 2011.

United Nations officials say special envoy Tomas Quintana spoke with political prisoners at Burma's notorious Insein Prison on Wednesday, ahead of what he described as a "very productive" meeting with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

UN Envoy Tomas Quintana on his trip to Burma:

Aye Win, a U.N. spokesman based in Burma, told VOA's Burmese service that Quintana was permitted to speak to all the political prisoners he asked for by name. These included Aung Ghein, Dr. Tin Min Htut, Ms. Khin Nu Nu, Phyo Wai Aung, Wai Zaw Naing, Sithu Zeya and Nyi Nyi Tun.

He said the human rights envoy also visited the hospital and a meditation center at the prison, which is believed to hold many of Burma's more than 2,000 political prisoners.

Later Wednesday, Quintana met privately for about an hour with Aung San Suu Kyi before holding talks with senior officials of her National League for Democracy.

Suu Kyi says she was encouraged after the meeting, which Quintana described as "fruitful."

NLD spokesman Ohn Kyaing told the Burmese service that Quintana said he did his best to impress on the Burmese leaders the importance of respecting human rights and the rule of law.

In a separate interview, NLD legal team member Nyan Win said during his meeting Quintana spoke about establishing an inquiry into human rights violations committed by the government.

He says Quintana said the inquiry would not be undertaken to punish any particular individual, but to make sure there is some rule of law in the country.

Quintana, who is charged with assessing the human rights situation in Burma, had not been permitted to meet Aung San Suu Kyi during previous visits, when she was under house arrest.

Quintana has been in Burma since Sunday and is expected to comment on his findings before leaving the country Thursday.

Earlier this week, Quintana met with several top officials in the capital, Naypyitaw, including Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, Chief Justice Tun Tun Oo, and Defense Minister General Hla Min. He also attended a regular session of the new parliament.

This is the first time in more than a year that Burmese officials have granted a visa to Quintana, who angered Burmese authorities last year by proposing that the United Nations establish a commission of inquiry to look into suspected crimes against humanity.

Quintana said before setting out on his current trip that he wanted to see how the human rights situation has changed since the installation of a new, nominally civilian-led government at the end of March.

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

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