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UN Rights Envoy Visits Burmese Prison


A United Nations human rights investigator has visited a notorious Burmese prison for political detainees as part of his probe of the military-ruled country's recent crackdown on anti-government protests.

Reporters saw U.N. envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro leave Burma's Insein prison in Rangoon after visiting for at least two hours today (Monday).

While in Burma, the envoy is expected to try to meet with political detainees and learn the actual death toll from the recent protests seeking economic and democratic reforms.

Burmese officials say 10 people were killed and about three thousand arrested during the protests. Diplomats and human rights groups argue that the true figures are much higher.

Pinheiro is on his first visit to Burma since 2003.

Since arriving Sunday, he has traveled to the town of Bago, 80 kilometers north of Rangoon, to visit monasteries that were targeted during the government crackdown. He also met with officials at Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon.

Shwedagon is one of Burma's most revered shrines. It has been a rallying point for past protests including those this year.

Pinheiro is a Brazilian legal scholar who has been a sharp critic of Burma's generals. Before beginning this five day visit, he said he would leave immediately if he does not get the military government's full support.

In 2003, the U.N. envoy abruptly left Burma after finding a listening device planted in a room where he was interviewing political prisoners.

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