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UN Diplomat Urges Burma Release Political Prisoners - 2003-11-10


A United Nations human rights envoy says Burma's transition to democracy cannot begin until the ruling military releases political prisoners.

Speaking in Bangkok, Thailand (today / Monday), Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said Burma's military must release all political prisoners, especially elderly members of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, whose average age is 80.

The Brazilian diplomat said eight members of the NLD executive committee are under house arrest and a ninth, U Tin Oo, is in prison.

Mr. Pinheiro said Burma's military leaders told him during a six-day visit to Rangoon last week that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is not being held under any security law.

The envoy said that when visited the Nobel Peace prize laureate at her home, the pro-democracy leader said she would not accept any liberties for herself, until all her supporters detained five months ago are released.

Mr. Pinheiro said Burma's government told him they have set free eight of 35 senior NLD members detained during a crackdown on the party.

About 150 NLD members were taken into custody after a clash May 30th in northern Burma between NLD supporters and government groups.

The Brazilian diplomat called the incident a significant setback in the efforts to bring democratic reforms to Burma.

Mr. Pinheiro will present a report about Burma to the UN General Assembly later this week.

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

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