United Nations special envoy Tomas Quintana met Thursday in Burma with leaders of ethnic opposition parties and former political prisoners, as he wrapped up a four-day tour of the country that included a private meeting with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Quintana said in a statement he welcomes several initiatives by the new, nominally civilian government to improve a human rights record that Western leaders have strongly criticized and the United States has called abysmal.
He said he is encouraged "at a key moment in Burma's history" by the reform priorities of President Thein Sein, and by moves in parliament to allow official media to report on human rights debate in the legislative body.
But the envoy also noted what he called "serious and ongoing human rights concerns," chief among them the continued detention of several thousand opposition figures and supporters jailed during four decades of military rule.
He also cited "continuing allegations" of torture and other abuses during official interrogations, the use of prisoners as porters for the military, and the transfer of prisoners to remote areas where they are unable to receive family visits.Quintana described his meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi as fruitful and productive, and said he will address Burma's human rights situation in a media statement before departing the country later Thursday.
Quintana, who is charged with assessing human rights in Burma, had not been permitted to meet Aung San Suu Kyi during previous visits, when the Nobel laureate was serving a lengthy term under house arrest in Rangoon.
Earlier this week, the envoy met with several top government officials in the administrative capital, Naypyitaw, including Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, Chief Justice Tun Tun Oo, and Defense Minister Hla Min.
He also attended a regular session of the country's new parliament, sworn in earlier this year after more than four decades of military rule in Burma.