(AFP) – Nov 15, 2007
YANGON (AFP) — A UN rights investigator Thursday met Myanmar's longest serving political prisoner, journalist Win Tin, a key member of detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's political party.
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro told reporters he met Win Tin and other leading prisoners of conscience during a brief visit to Yangon's notorious Insein prison.
"He is always in high spirits, he is OK," Pinheiro told reporters at Yangon airport when asked about the condition of the veteran democracy campaigner.
Win Tin, 77, has spent more than 18 years behind bars since his arrest in July 1989. He is serving a 20-year sentence for his writings and being a senior member of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.
Pinheiro said he requested to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest, but "it was not possible for me to meet her this time."
"I hope that next time I will be able to met the general secretary of the NLD," he said in reference to her.
The Brazilian envoy however made no mention of his mission to investigate the actual death toll and detentions from the junta's suppression of massive anti-government protests in September, which caused international outrage.
The ruling military said 10 people were killed in the protests but diplomats say the true toll was far higher.
Pinheiro said he briefly met prominent labour rights activist Su Su Nway, 35, who was arrested Tuesday while putting up anti-government posters, and members of the 88 Generation Students, a group of veteran student leaders who spearheaded a 1988 uprising against the military.
"I must say that I have met a large number of people that I have asked (to meet)," he said.
Asked his opinion of the situation in Myanmar, Pinheiro replied: "I will elaborate in my report," to the Human Rights Council.
The rights investigator however said the generals had cooperated with him.
"I'm very glad that the government provided detailed information about all the names and situation of the detainees at this moment," he said without elaborating.
The UN expert left Myanmar in 2003 after learning his meeting with a political prisoner in Insein had been bugged, and had not been allowed to return until this visit.
Human rights groups had called on Pinheiro to pressure the junta to release all political prisoners.
Amnesty International has estimated that 700 people arrested over the September protests were still in detention, although the government said only 91 of the nearly 3,000 originally rounded up were being held.
Pinheiro also had several meetings with top junta officials in the remote new capital Naypyidaw.
The arrests of Su Su Nway and a monk who was among the leaders of the protests came despite assurances by the junta to UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari last week that there would be no more political arrests.
Gambari told the UN Security Council his visit had resulted in some progress but that the junta must do more to ensure a genuine dialogue with the opposition.
Security Council president Marty Natalegawa, Indonesia's UN envoy, said it welcomed recent positive steps by the generals but members had expressed concern "that many prisoners are still in jail and new arrests have occurred."
Monks were at the forefront of the protests, which began as demonstrations against a surprise hike in fuel prices in August and snowballed into the biggest anti-government demonstrations the junta has faced since 1988.
The ruling generals are under global pressure to make steps towards democracy after their violent crackdown on the protesters.
Pinheiro was headed for Bangkok where he is due to give a press conference on Friday and meet the Thai foreign minister.
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