UN envoy arrives in Burma

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The Independent Online

A special United Nations envoy arrived in Burma today on a five-day mission to evaluate progress on human rights in the military-ruled nation.

Envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana's third visit follows the release from almost seven years of detention of the deputy leader of the pro-democracy party led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mr Quintana is expected to meet several key ministers in the country's administrative capital of Naypyitaw and members of the opposition during his trip.

He is also to tour Rangoon's notorious Insein prison and another prison in the northwestern state of Rakhine.

The envoy also requested a meeting with Nobel Prize winner Ms Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest. He was barred from seeing her on his previous visits.

Mr Quintana said in a statement last week that it would be important to meet with political party leaders in the context of this year's landmark elections, which he described as "a critical time" for the people of Burma.

Mr Suu Kyi's party spokesman, Nyan Win, said the party welcomed the UN envoy's visit since gross human rights violations were continuing.

"His visit won't be able to totally address the human rights issue but the visit can certainly contain human rights abuses," Mr Nyan Win said.

A day earlier, the regime released the party's vice chairman, Tin Oo, from house arrest but still holds some 2,100 political prisoners.

During the visit, the envoy said he would press for the release of political prisoners, review progress on reform within the armed forces and check on the revision of domestic laws to ensure compliance with international human rights standards.

The human rights envoy will present his findings of the visit at the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council meeting in March.

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