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UN Expert Poised for Investigation in Burma - 2002-10-17


A U-N human rights envoy has started an 11-day mission to Burma amid charges that the military government is guilty of using rape as a weapon and forcibly drafting child soldiers.

Burmese officials say they invited Paulo Sergio Pinheiro to visit as an independent third party to prove their assertion that the charges are false.

Mr. Pinheiro plans to hold talks with top Burmese government officials and judicial authorities. He also hopes to meet with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

But some Burmese human rights advocates say government officials will show Mr. Pinheiro only what they want him to see, making it impossible for the U-N envoy to carry out an objective investigation.

Earlier this week, New York-based Human Rights Watch said Burma has the highest number of child soldiers in the world with at least 20 percent of its solders 18 years old or younger. The group says children as young as 11 are sometimes kidnapped off the streets, recruited as soldiers, and forced to carry out atrocities.

The U-S State Department and two Burmese Shan minority rights groups have also accused Burmese soldiers of raping more than 600 Shan women and girls. They say the military uses rape to retaliate for a Shan guerrilla war for an independent state in western Burma.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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