09/30/2005, 00.00
MYANMAR

More than 1,110 political prisoners in Myanmar

New York (AsiaNews/Agencies) – There are more than 1,100 political prisoners in Myanmar, "including monks, lawyers, teachers, journalists, farmers, politicians, student leaders, writers and poets", says Paulo Sergio Pinheiro. The United Nations human rights observer told the General Assembly that although the Myanmar government released 249 opponents on 6 July, hundreds of political detainees remain imprisoned. Further, he accused the authorities of torturing prisoners.

In his report, Pinheiro expressed his preoccupation about the continued house arrest of the democracy activist, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, which makes it impossible for her to work with her colleagues of the National League for Democracy (NLD). He also highlighted the detention of U Win Tin, a 75-year-old editor and poet, who has been held for 16 years in Insein, a very harsh prison.

Pinheiro said such an attitude "runs counter to the spirit of national reconciliation" which the military junta claims it wants to achieve. For some time now, Yangon has insisted it is following a plan for peaceful transition to democracy. In June last year, the junta called a national meeting to draft a new constitution, but Suu Kyi was not allowed to participate and her party boycotted the meeting in protest. Pinheiro said the government should take immediate steps to ensure the participation of all political parties "to salvage the national convention and its credibility both at home and internationally".

The report includes charges of severe violations of human rights against ethnic minorities including forced labour, extortion and expropriation, rape and other sexual violence by the armed forces.

Officials at Myanmar's UN mission did not release any statements.

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