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UN Envoy: Burma Must Release Political Prisoners for Road Map To Succeed - 2003-11-13


The UN's human rights envoy to Burma says the country's proposed "road map" to democracy can not move forward while the government continues to hold political prisoners.

Brazilian ambassador Paulo Sergio Pinheiro says he can not endorse the plan while Rangoon still holds 1300 political prisoners and detains the top members of the opposition party -- the NLD.

Some 100 opposition members have been in detention since May. The UN envoy recently met with prisoners in Burma and confirmed they were not being abused, but he did express frustration at the failure of the country's leaders to release them.

Mr. Pinheiro also met with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She was recently released from house arrest but has refused to leave until members of her party are also set free.

Burma insists it remains committed to democracy and national reconciliation. In response to the UN envoy, a government spokesman said it was Rangoon's wish to continue the political transition.

But Mr. Pinheiro said he is also skeptical because the military government has not set a deadline for establishing a new constitution that allows all parties to contribute.

He called on the international community, including neighboring Asian countries, to intervene.

Thailand, which has played a key role in negotiations, said an international forum to discuss the "road map" should be held soon in order to end the political deadlock.

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the plan will not work because Burma's military government prepared it without consulting opposition political leaders.

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