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UN Envoy Pinheiro News Conference - 2003-11-08


Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, ended his six-day mission to Burma on Saturday, November 8.

VOA Burmese Service interviewed U Win Naing, a national politician, who attended the press conference of the U.N. envoy at the United Nations Development Program Office in Rangoon.

The U.N. human rights envoy was generally pleased with his mission this time around. Burmese military authorities told him that Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is no more under house arrest.

However, Burma's democracy movement leader refuses to accept what she calls "the privileges" until the 35 of her colleagues arrested together with her at Depayin on May 30 are also released.

Aung San Suu Kyi also expressed her wish to Mr. Pinheiro that an independent special commission should look into the Depayin incident in order to help prevent a similar political violence in the future.

During his six day mission in Burma, Mr. Pinheiro was allowed to meet with 20 or so political prisoners. He recounted a moving story about U Win Tin, an aging NLD member, who he said was writing poems on the prison walls using brick powder diluted with water as the medium.

Mr. Pinheiro wished this noted writer and journalist could write poems in the outside world very soon. He also exhorted the authorities to live up to Burma's long-standing political phenomenon of granting general amnesty to prisoners.

Mr. Pinheiro reiterated and defended his role as a rapporteur on human rights by saying the U.S. congressmen who recently criticized him for not making any progress in bringing about a democratic change in Burma are -- in his words -- "who have never been to Burmese prisons."

He said it was so uplifting and satisfying to see the prisoners who virtually welcomed him and to know that his visit has really given them a morale boost.

Although it is not his job to make any comments on the military government's stated road map for national reconciliation and democratization in Burma, the U.N. envoy said he hopes everybody would get an opportunity to freely express their wishes for the future of their own country.

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