UN human rights envoy visits Myanmar ethnic groups
A United Nations human rights envoy toured eastern Myanmar bordering Thailand to assess the human rights conditions of ethnic groups in the southeast Asian country, a government source said.india Updated: Feb 16, 2009 03:54 IST
A United Nations human rights envoy toured eastern Myanmar bordering Thailand on Sunday to assess the human rights conditions of ethnic groups in the southeast Asian country, a government source said.
Tomas Ojea Quintana, UN Special Human Rights Rapporteur for Myanmar, visited eastern Kayin State on the first leg of a fact finding tour he hoped would include meeting detained opposition leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi.
State-run media have not reported Ojea's five-day visit, his second trip to the country since taking office last May.
In a previous visit in August, Myanmar's government did not respond to Ojea's request to meet Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years.
She is among 2,162 people believed to be in detention in Myanmar for their political or religious beliefs.
According to the UN Information Centre, Ojea hopes to meet some political prisoners jailed by the ruling military regime as well as opposition leaders this week. He also plans to travel to western Rakhine and northern Kachin states.
Rakhine is home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group which made headlines recently following reports hundreds of Rohingya who fled to Thailand to escape poverty and hardship were mistreated by the Thai military.
"The main objectives of his visit are to assess the development of situation of human rights since his previous mission last summer," a UN statement said.
A Home Ministry source said the U.N. envoy also asked to visit to the high-security Insein prison in northern suburban Yangon which has held many political prisoners.
On the eve of Ojea's visit, a Myanmar court handed 15-year jail terms to two senior opposition politicians of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
NLD members Nyi Bu and Tin Min Htut were convicted of various charges on Friday in a court session held inside the Insein prison without lawyers or family members present, NLD spokesman Nyan Win told Reuters on Saturday.
The two men were arrested in August after they wrote an open letter to the United Nations criticising the ruling military regime's seven-step roadmap toward democratic political reforms.
State-run newspapers reported that in western Kayin state being visited by the U.N. envoy, forces of the anti-government Karen National Union (KNU) fired four rounds of rocket-propelled grenades into a Myanmar border town of Myawady on Saturday.
"Two shells landed about seven miles southwest of the town, one near a downtown guesthouse, and the last one in the compound of a Buddhist monastery. There were no casualties in the blast," the New Light of Myanmar reported on Sunday.
KNU is the biggest ethnic armed group that has fought for autonomy since 1949, one year after Myanmar won independence from Britain.
First Published: Feb 16, 2009 03:49 IST