UN envoy visits cyclone-hit region
A United Nations human rights envoy left Tuesday to inspect the devastation from the cyclone that struck Myanmar's Irrawaddy river delta three months ago.world Updated: Aug 05, 2008 08:41 IST
A United Nations human rights envoy left Tuesday to inspect the devastation from the cyclone that struck Myanmar's Irrawaddy river delta three months ago. Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN Human Rights Council investigator for Myanmar, is on a four-day mission to the country and had asked to visit the delta where Cyclone Nargis killed more than 84,000 people.
Myanmar's military rulers were accused of initially preventing foreign relief workers from accessing the area, then dragging their feet on providing food, water and shelter to the estimated 2.4 million survivors of the May 2-3 storm.
A Western diplomat said Quintana is also expected to visit Yangon's notorious Insein prison after his return from the delta.
The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity, citing protocol. Quintana's predecessor, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, visited the prison in November and met with Myanmar's longest serving prisoner of conscience, Win Tin, a prominent journalist imprisoned for 19 years, and some detained political activists.
Quintana's visit comes before the 20th anniversary of an uprising against the military junta. The government has already beefed up security, fearing pro-democracy activists could launch anti-junta protests to coincide with August 8, 1988, anniversary. At the start of his mission on Monday, Quintana met senior members of the State Sangha Organization, the body that supervises the country's Buddhist monasteries and monks. He talked with other religious groups, representatives of a government-sponsored women's organization and the Myanmar Red Cross Society.
Quintana also met the Tripartite Core Group that oversees cyclone relief work. The group comprises representatives of the government, UN agencies and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is a member.
Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962. The current junta came to power in 1988 after crushing a nationwide pro-democracy movement, killing as many as 3,000 people. It called elections in 1990 but refused to honor the results when the party of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi won overwhelmingly.
The junta ruled mostly unchallenged until last August, when thousands of Buddhist monks joined rallies against a fuel price increase. The junta cracked down on anti-government demonstrations in September by shooting and arresting protesters, killing as many as 31 people. Dissident groups put the death toll far higher.