Thu, Nov 15, 2007 - Page 1 News List

UN envoy urges dialogue as junta arrests activists

BACK IN ACTION Media groups said Myanmar authorities had arrested three activists, including a Buddhist monk who was a key leader in the protests

AFP , YANGON

UN human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro yesterday met with top Myanmar junta officials as the Security Council said the generals must do more to ensure a dialogue with the opposition.

Pinheiro met with Myanmar Labor Minister Aung Kyi, who was appointed to liaise with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, an official said, but no details were immediately available.

In New York, UN Security Council President Marty Natalegawa, Indonesia's UN envoy, said they welcomed recent positive steps by the generals, but members had expressed concern "that many prisoners are still in jail and new arrests have occurred."

Pinheiro's mission to investigate the death toll and detentions from recent anti-government protests came as police continued to arrest leading activists.

Authorities seized a Buddhist monk who was a key leader of the massive anti-junta protests in September, exiled media groups and an activist said yesterday.

"U Gambira was arrested on 4th November, his family said. He was a leader of monks," said Aung Kyaw Oo, who works for the Thailand-based monitoring group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Monks were at the forefront of the protests, which began as demonstrations against a surprise hike in fuel prices in August and snowballed into the biggest anti-government demonstrations the junta has faced since 1988.

On Tuesday, police arrested labour rights campaigner Su Su Nway in Yangon as she posted anti-government leaflets, a source familiar with the matter said.

A pro-government blog said she was arrested along with a 25-year-old colleague named Bo Bo, while two others managed to escape.

Su Su Nway, 35, had been in hiding since leading a protest in Yangon in late August over the soaring fuel prices.

Human rights groups have called on Pinheiro to pressure the junta to release all political prisoners during his mission to investigate the deadly crackdown on the protests and other rights abuses.

The UN said he would be allowed to meet prisoners, following his meeting on Tuesday with Myanmar Home Affairs Minister Major-General Maung Oo.

"The special rapporteur was given assurances that he will be able to interview detainees, before the end of his mission, as requested," the UN said in a statement.

Amnesty International has estimated that 700 people arrested over the recent protests were still in detention, although the government said only 91 of the 3,000 originally rounded up were being held.

Pinheiro met yesterday with Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win and Labour Minister Aung Kyi, who is regarded as a moderate, after briefing diplomats and the local UN organization, a Myanmar official said.

He then met with Information Minister Brigadier General Kyaw Hsan but was unlikely to meet with the prime minister during this trip, which ends today.

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