11/12/2007, 00.00
MYANMAR – UNITED NATIONS
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UN envoy in Myanmar, visits monastery and Insein Prison

Pinheiro’s mission is meant to shed light on the number of people affected by the crackdown. He begins his mission in a monastery raided by the army and in Yangon’s infamous Insein Prison. Myanmar activists are sceptical about results since the junta has carefully prepared for his visit. They want him to visit sites affected by the violence that are not on the military’s list.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – The United Nations' Human Rights Envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro kicked off his Myanmar investigation with visits to a Buddhist monastery raided by the army and to the infamous Insein prison. Mr Pinheiro, who arrived in Yangon yesterday, was the first human rights official allowed in the country in four years. Analysts and dissidents remain cautious about what the world body can actually accomplish vis-à-vis the generals.

Yesterday Mr Pinheiro went to Kya Khat Waing Monastery in Bago, north of the ex capital, before visiting Insein Prison today. At the monastery he met the head abbot who told him that the military raided the compound, mistreated many of its residents, arrested some 70 monks and novices and stole some gold objects.

Today he spent about two hours in Insein Prison where he tried to meet Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, two of the leaders of August's fuel price protests.

It is likely that the Brazilian diplomat will travel to Naypydaw to meet junta leaders, but his visit has not been finalised in all its details.

The fact-finding mission is designed to investigate accusation of human rights violations and find out how many people were affected by the crackdown.

Most analysts remain sceptical however that his visit can have any positive results, even though it comes just a few days after UN Special Envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari ended his.

For many experts, the junta’s willingness to co-operate is just a smokescreen meant to reduce international pressure.

In 2003 Mr Pinheiro was allowed access to all political prisoners he wished to see, but stormed out of an interview with a detainee at Insein when he discovered a tape recorder stuck beneath the table.

Tate Naing, secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), told The Irrawaddy that his organisation did not expect too much from Pinheiro's trip because the junta had carefully prepared for the visit.

A spokesperson for the 88 Generation Students group, Soe Tun, said that if Pinheiro wanted to understand the reality of the September crackdowns, he “should visit not only government-approved places, but also” those touched by the crackdown during Gambari’s trip.

A government source said that 2,927 people were detained by the authorities and that all but 91 were released.

By contrast, NGOs and foreign diplomats put the total number of those arrested at more than 6,000.

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