Email This Story :
Feb 18, 2010 (AFP)-A UN envoy visiting military-ruled Burma to inspect progress on human rights ahead of elections has met prisoners in the country’s remote northwest, officials said Wednesday.
Special rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana, on the third day of a five-day trip to the Southeast Asian nation, travelled to Butheetaung prison in Rakhine state on the border with Bangladesh, they said.
"He will meet with some prisoners in Butheetaung prison. He met some prisoners already in Sittwe (the state capital) on Tuesday. He will go back to Yangon on Thursday morning," a Burmese official told AFP.
He did not specify whether or not they were political prisoners.
But a relative of a prominent student activist who is serving a 65-year jail sentence at Butheetaung prison said they hoped Quintana’s visit would bring about change.
"I haven’t heard whether the UN envoy will meet with my brother. But I hope that there will be change because of the UN human rights envoy’s visit there," Khin Mi Mi Kywe, a sister of Htay Kywe, told AFP.
"I visited him last month at Butheetaung. He was in good health. I hope the authorities will allow him to meet the envoy," she said.
Htay Kywe was arrested after mass protests led by Buddhist monks against the ruling junta in 2007 and he is serving his jail term in Butheetaung prison together with some of his colleagues.
Burma’s ruling generals have promised to hold elections in 2010 but have not yet set a date. They have also continued a crackdown on dissent launched after the protests three years ago.
The UN says there are around 2,100 political detainees in the country, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained for 14 of the last 20 years.
Her National League for Democracy won Burma’s last elections in 1990 but was prevented from taking power. Her house arrest was extended by 18 months in August.
Quintana is due to return from Rakhine on Thursday to visit the notorious Insein prison in the former capital Yangon and to meet representatives of ethnic groups.
On Friday he will go to the remote new capital Naypyidaw to meet the home affairs minister, foreign minister, chief justice, chief attorney general, police chief and human rights officials before leaving Burma.