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World Must Keep Spotlight On Burma, Rights Expert

World must keep spotlight on Myanmar, urges UN rights expert

The independent United Nations human rights expert on Myanmar today urged the international community to maintain its focus on the South-East Asian nation, where the Government used force in responding to peaceful demonstrations earlier this year.

"The international community is supposed to do this to honour these young people, those women, students, the monks that assumed an enormous risk in going to the street to fight for the freedom of assembly, the freedom of opinion," Paulo Sergio Pinheiro told reporters in Bangkok following his five-day visit to Myanmar.

"The Human Rights Council must continue to follow with attention and interest the situation in Myanmar," he said.

Mr. Pinheiro, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, arrived in Yangon on Saturday - at the invitation of the Government - to verify allegations of abuses during the recent Government crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, determine the numbers and whereabouts of those detained or killed, and collect testimony about what happened.

The Special Rapporteur, who last visited Myanmar in 2003, held meetings, both in Yangon and the new capital Nay Pyi Taw, with Myanmar officials, the UN Country Team, monks, detainees and representatives of ethnic groups.

Even though he was not able to meet with detained pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi during his trip, Mr. Pinheiro drew attention today to the importance of the access he has had to some of the other detainees, as well as his ability to interview the law enforcement authorities.

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In addition, he said his conversations with several monks had been "revealing in terms of the risks or the threats that the monks had to confront."

The expert, who works in an unpaid capacity, said he now has "a clear picture of the involvement of the monks, the events, the confrontation between the monks and law enforcement agencies."

Mr. Pinheiro said he has requested a number of crucial details from the authorities regarding, detentions, conditions of detention, numbers of released people, whereabouts of those detained, causes of death and other issues. The Government has provided the Special Rapporteur with a number of detailed records that responded partially to his requests.

As to the number of people killed during the crackdown, Mr. Pinheiro told journalists he was not in a position to confirm the Government's figure of 15 casualties. He said he was continuing to compile information and in his report he would "try to come up with an accurate number."

Similarly, he said that while the Government has said it has released around 3,000 detainees, the actual total is still to be determined. "What is clear is that the number of detainees is very high," stated Mr. Pinheiro.

He added that his trip cannot be considered a full fledged fact-finding mission, stating that the conditions for an independent and confidential investigation mission would require a different framework.

The Special Rapporteur will present his report to the Human Rights Council on 11 December.


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