Sat, Nov 17, 2007 - Page 5 News List

`I know Myanmar numbers': UN envoy

DEATHS AND DETENTIONS Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said he would provide the figures to the UN Human Rights Council on Dec. 11. Meanwhile, six prisoners were freed

AGENCIES , BANGKOK AND YANGON, MYANMAR

Burmese activists wearing masks of Asian leaders and one wearing a mask of Myanmar's junta leader General Than Shwe, right, protest in front of the Singaporean embassy in Bangkok yesterday. The protesters were urging ASEAN members to take urgent action against Myanmar's junta.

PHOTO: AFP

A UN investigator said yesterday that his five-day mission to Myanmar enabled him to determine the numbers of people killed and detained in the government's September crackdown on protesters, but that he would not immediately reveal details.

UN human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said he would report the figures only after drafting a formal report on his trip. He said he would present his findings to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Dec. 11.

"I'm compiling the documents. In two weeks I will have this number," Pinheiro told reporters in Bangkok.

Myanmar's military government has said 10 people were killed when troops opened fire on crowds of peaceful protesters Sept. 26 and Sept. 27. Diplomats and dissidents, however, say the death toll was much higher.

Pinheiro was sent by the UN to investigate allegations of abuse in connection with the crackdown and to try to get into Myanmar's prisons to pin down the precise numbers of those killed and detained.

During his five-day stay, he was allowed to meet with several prominent political prisoners at Yangon's infamous Insein Prison and said the authorities had given him a list of all detainees and their condition.

"They offered good cooperation. I had access to most of the authorities I requested. I was able to interview some prisoners," he said.

Pinheiro's trip was dominated by meetings with junta officials, and he conceded that it could not be described as a fully fledged fact-finding mission because he mostly received the government's perspective.

The regime has acknowledged detaining nearly 3,000 people who took part in the protests but says it has released most of them. Many prominent political activists, however, remain in custody.

"Of course, I am happy that large numbers of people have been released, but I have my concerns about the situation of those who have not been released," Pinheiro said in Yangon on Thursday.

Before leaving Myanmar on Thursday, Pinheiro met with jailed labor activist Su Su Nway at Insein Prison.

On the run for more than two months, the prominent activist was arrested on Tuesday as she tried to place a leaflet near a Yangon hotel where Pinheiro was staying, exiled Myanmar dissidents in Thailand said.

Pinheiro also met with 77-year-old journalist Win Tin, held since 1989, and members of the 88 Generation Students group, who have been especially active in nonviolent anti-government protests in recent years.

Meanwhile, six prisoners of conscience were freed on Thursday, including Thet Naung Soe, a student sentenced to 14 years in jail for staging a solo protest outside Yangon's City Hall in 2002, an opposition lawyer said yesterday.

The five men and a woman were freed from Insein prison shortly after Pinheiro's visit.

Aung Thein, a member of the opposition National League for Democracy's (NLD) legal advisory committee, said five of those freed were NLD members.

Thet Naung Soe was said to have been in poor physical and mental health as a result of his time in prison.

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