UN's Pinheiro seeks return to Burma

Dec 11, 2007 (AP), The UN’s special investigator on human rights in Burma said Tuesday he wants to return to the country as soon as possible to examine the government’s deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in September.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said he needs to spend more time in the country, adding that senior government officials have assured him he would be able to meet opposition leaders during his next visit.

Pinheiro, a Brazilian professor, reported last week that at least 31 people were killed, challenging the Burmese government’s account of how many people died in the repression. But Pinheiro said the actual death toll was likely much higher.

"The government assured me that this visit was not the last," he told reporters in Geneva. "I think that I must return because I stayed just five days and had very limited access. The government didn’t allow me to meet the general-secretary of the NLD, Aung San Suu Kyi, but the minister of foreign affairs told me that the next time I will have this opportunity."

Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy in Burma, has been detained for 12 of the past 18 years.

He said he was still waiting for a reaction to his report from the military junta that rules the country.

Burma sparked global outrage when it crushed demonstrations led by Buddhist monks, arresting between 3,000 and 4,000 people, according to Pinheiro, who claimed that between 500 and 1,000 are still detained.

The professor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, said he would investigate the events further.

"Besides the government I have other sources that I judge, and I think that I can rely on them," Pinheiro told reporters.

He is expected to brief the 47-nation UN rights council on Wednesday.

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