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UN envoy meets Myanmar monks: official

world Updated: Aug 04, 2008 16:20 IST
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The UN's new human rights envoy for Myanmar met with senior Buddhist monks on Monday, as his first visit to the military-ruled nation got under way, a senior official said.

United Nations special rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana, who took up his post in May, met with the monks as well as other religious leaders in Yangon, a Myanmar official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Buddhist monks led mass anti-government protests in September that were violently put down by security forces who opened fire on crowds and beat people in the streets.

The official did not say whether Quintana met monks who were personally involved in the protests.

Quintana's predecessor, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, said in a report to the UN Human Rights Council in November that at least 31 people were killed and 74 remained missing after the crackdown.

He also said that about 1,850 political prisoners were behind bars, and that the government had "accelerated" unlawful arrests.

Later on Monday, Quintana was set to meet with the panel coordinating the relief effort for 2.4 million victims of Cyclone Nargis, which pounded Myanmar three months ago.

The so-called Tripartite Core Group includes representatives of Myanmar's government, the United Nations, and other Southeast Asian countries. The panel was created to address concerns that the junta was stonewalling the relief effort.

Quintana plans on Tuesday to visit the hardest-hit regions of the Irrawaddy Delta, which suffered most of the damage from the storm that left more than 138,000 dead or missing, the Myanmar official said.

Before his trip ends on Thursday, he also aims to meet state officials, ethnic groups and political parties, and try to open talks with the generals on improving their human rights record.

Human rights groups, foreign governments and the United Nations accuse the junta of a string of abuses, including suppressing the democracy movement, persecuting ethnic minorities and imprisoning dissidents.