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SLUG: 2-295785 Burma / Human Rights
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=10/28/02

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=BURMA / U-N / HUMAN RIGHTS L-ONLY

NUMBER=2-295785

BYLINE=RON CORBEN

DATELINE=BANGKOK

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: United Nations human rights envoy, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, ends his latest mission to Burma (Monday) with a final meeting with opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. As Ron Corben reports, Mr. Pinheiro's fact-finding mission has been low-key and observers say the United Nations may need to adopt a more aggressive approach to pressure Burma's military government to improve it human rights record and its pace on political reforms.

TEXT: U-N human rights envoy, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, concluded his fourth visit Monday, meeting with the opposition National League for Democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

During his 12-day mission, he was to investigate alleged human rights abuses by the government including: forced labor, rape, torture, mistreatment of ethnic minorities and political prisoners.

/// OPT /// Mr. Pinheiro visited to two prisons - the Insein in Rangoon and Tharawaddy north of the capital both known to hold detained political prisoners. He interviewed inmates over the standard of health treatment they are receiving. /// END OPT ///

/// OPT /// During his stay, he had also held talks with the military government's powerful intelligence chief, Khin Nyunt, as well as Foreign Minister, Win Aung. /// END OPT ///

Political dissent in Burma has long been suppressed since the military began ruling in 1962. The current government came to power in 1988, and despite the N-L-D winning a landslide victory in 1990 elections, has refused to hand over power.

Instead, hundreds of dissidents and N-L-D members have been harassed and arrested and dozens of political detainees have perished in custody - with human rights groups saying many died from neglect and malnutrition.

There have been recent signs of progress in the last two years. Reconciliation talks between the government and Aung San Suu Kyi began with U-N help in late 2000 leading the government to release hundreds of N-L-D and non N-L-D members from detention.

But the pace of change has been slow frustrating the opposition and Burmese activists.

Human rights groups believe that more than a thousand political prisoners remain detained. In addition, the talks between the ruling generals and the N-L-D have yet to begin to address the core issue: how to proceed with democratic political reform in Burma.

Irrawaddy newspaper editor, Aung Zaw, says other ways are now needed to back the U-N calls for reform.

/// AUNG ZAW ACT ///

Along with (Mr. Pinheiro's) visit the U-N should sponsor, or find a mechanism, that will pressure

government leaders to comply with the U-N resolutions and demand they take the necessary political reforms. Otherwise he can visit again and come out and make a U-N report and that won't make any significant change.

/// ENDS ACT ////

The United States and several European countries maintain tough political and economic sanctions on Burma to pressure for human rights and political reforms.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pinheiro is due to present his report on this latest mission to the General Assembly in November. (signed)

NEB/HK/RC/JO



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