UN human rights envoy visits Myanmar after 4-year ban | world | Hindustan Times
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UN human rights envoy visits Myanmar after 4-year ban

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro says he is determined to gain access to the country's prisons as part of an investigation into abuse by the Junta.

world Updated: Nov 12, 2007 04:07 IST

A UN human rights envoy was allowed to enter military-ruled Myanmar for the first time in four years on Sunday, on a mission to determine how many people have been killed or detained since the start of a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the UN's independent rights investigator for Myanmar, says he is determined to gain access to the country's prisons as part of an investigation into wide-ranging allegations of abuse by the military junta.

He submitted a proposed itinerary to the junta before the start of his five-day visit, but it was still being "fine-tuned," Aye Win, the UN spokesman in Myanmar, said today.

"I hope I will have a very productive stay," Pinheiro told reporters after flying into Yangon, Myanmar's largest city. "I'm just very happy to be back here after four years."

Pinheiro has a history of prickly relations with the ruling generals. He abruptly cut short a visit in March 2003 after finding a listening device in a room at a prison where he was interviewing political detainees. Later that year, he accused the junta of making "absurd" excuses to keep political opponents in prison.

He has been barred from the country since November 2003.

Accompanied by authorities, Pinheiro's first stop in Myanmar was a Buddhist monastery in the town of Bago, 80 kilometres north of Yangon, the UN said. He then returned to Yangon to meet officials at Shwedagon Pagoda, the country's most revered shrine and a flash point of unrest during the protests, it said in a statement.