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UN Envoy Calls for Release of Burma's Political Prisoners - 2003-03-26


A United Nations human rights envoy is calling for the unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners in Burma.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said the release would move political reforms in Burma forward -- considering it is difficult to have a dialogue in the current situation. He said the Burmese government must take what he calls "bold steps" to release the political dissidents -- who could number up to 13,00 people.

Mr. Pinheiro made the comments in Bangkok, where he traveled Monday after abruptly ending a mission to Burma when he discovered a listening device while interviewing a political prisoner.

A Bangkok-based human rights group, ASEAN Network in Burma, says the bugging incident has damaged relations between the Burmese military government and the United Nations. A spokeswoman for the group says Mr. Pinheiro is one of the few friends Rangoon has, and that it should treat him better.

Burmese military officials say they were not responsible for the device and have expressed regret about the incident. Burma says it hopes the UN cooperation will continue.

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