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Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

24 October 2007

Paolo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon that he had been allowed by the Myanmar authorities to visit the country on 17 November.

He told the press that he intended to leave for Myanmar soon after the visit of Ibrahim Gambari, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General, who was due in the country the first week of November. Mr Gambari was currently in South-East Asian countries to encourage the Governments there to help resolve the crisis in Myanmar.

Mr. Pinheiro said that their missions were different and that cooperation and coordination were essential. They could not give the impression that they were pursuing two different approaches. The approach of the Human Rights Council -- which was dispatching him to Myanmar -- was “very much the same as that of the Secretary-General”.

The objective of his visit was very limited, and conformed to the mandate given him by the resolution of the special session of the Human Rights Council on Myanmar, he said. The mandate basically concerned the recent crisis in the country. His task was to offer “an honest and objective picture” of the crisis, including its immediate origin, the excessive use of force by the military, the fate of detainees and the number of casualties, and then to offer some recommendations to the Human Rights Council.

Responding to questions, Mr. Pinheiro said that he had been informed by the Ambassador of Myanmar that 2,675 detainees had been released and that more would follow. He did not know how many people were still in detention. He said: “I think the situation of fear prevails. I don’t think repression has eased.”

He told another questioner that he believed that detentions were continuing. “What annoys me is that the repression had not stopped in a single moment, despite the universal appeal by the Human Rights Council, and the statement of the President of the Security Council (document S/PRST/2007/37 of 11 October).”

Asked why the focus of his mission would not be expanded beyond recent events, he reiterated that his mission was based on the mandate given him by the Human Rights Council.

In answer to another question, he said he did not want to put the lives of people he might meet at risk. The Secretary-General would ask for free access for him. He added, however, that he had been assured today by the Ambassador of Myanmar that he would be given full cooperation. How confident was he that he would be taken to places he wanted to visit? a correspondent asked. “Usually, I go where I want,” he answered.

He told a questioner that the monks had joined the recent protests when one of their monasteries had been attacked and a monk hurt. Their first request had been for the Government to apologize. The focus of the protest march had not been political. “I refuse to believe that the march of the monks was a prelude to revolution in Myanmar.” He believed that the Government of Myanmar had committed a “terrible mistake in attacking the monks”.

He pointed out that Myanmar society, like many in Asia, was organized around Buddhism. He described their boycott of military donations as “tragic” for the military, as it meant it being “refused a safe route to salvation” under Buddhist beliefs. The consequences would not be an immediate change of power, but rather it would affect the social cohesion of the country, leading perhaps to some political changes.

[The crisis in Myanmar began on 15 August when the Government decided to increase the price of fuel. Petrol and diesel doubled in price, while the cost of compressed gas went up five-fold. The price of public transport rose, affecting that of staples such as rice and cooking oil.]

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For information media • not an official record

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