UN rights investigator to visit Myanmar

Other News Materials 25 October 2007 11:03

( RIA Novosti ) - The UN's independent rights investigator on Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, has announced that the country's ruling junta has granted him permission to visit.

Speaking at a news conference in New York on Wednesday, Pinheiro said that during his visit to Myanmar, which is to come after U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari's return trip in the first week of November, he would attempt to find out more precise details regarding the amount of people killed and detained both during and following last month's anti-junta demonstrations.

"I will be particularly concerned to verify the numbers, whereabouts and conditions of those currently detained, as well as accounting for the numbers killed during the protests," he said at an earlier briefing to the General Assembly committee.

"If they don't give me full cooperation, I'll go to the plane, and I'll go out," Pinheiro told journalists later.

The ruling junta has informed the UN that Pinheiro can visit Myanmar before the November 17 summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

While the government of Myanmar has officially confirmed the deaths of 10 protestors during the demonstrations, other sources have claimed the true figure is much higher, and that reprisals, including executions and mass arrests, are still continuing.

Recent protests in Myanmar, which were the largest in more than two decades, began last month when the junta drastically raised the price of fuel, leaving many people unable to afford even a journey to work. Demonstrations rapidly took on a more general anti-junta nature however.

The vast majority of September's demonstrations, including a 100,000-strong protest march in the capital, Yangon, were headed and organized by the country's monks. Protests eventually died down after soldiers raided monasteries throughout the country, beating and imprisoning large numbers of the Buddhist holy men.

The ruling-junta seized power in 1988, and although a general election was subsequently held in 1990, the military authorities refused to honor the results when pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy Party won.

Prior to this year's protests, the last anti-junta demonstrations in Myanmar were led by students in 1988. Security forces opened fire on crowds, and around 3,000 people were killed.