UN envoy to assess human rights in Myanmar after crackdown on protests

YANGON - UN human rights expert Paulo Sergio Pinheiro arrived in Myanmar yesterday at the invitation of the ruling junta - after being denied a visa to the country for four years.

YANGON - UN human rights expert Paulo Sergio Pinheiro arrived in Myanmar yesterday at the invitation of the ruling junta - after being denied a visa to the country for four years.

Pinheiro, whose visit follows hot on the heels of UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, was scheduled to spend the night in Yangon before flying on to Naypyidaw, the military's new capital, UN sources said.

Pinheiro is in Myanmar to assess the human rights situation in the country in the aftermath of a brutal crackdown on protests headed by Buddhist monks in September that left 10 dead, according to government figures.

But Myanmar activists and Western observers in Yangon believe the death toll was closer to 200. More than 3000 people have been arrested since September, and unknown numbers remain under detention.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has been denied access to political prisoners in Myanmar jails for months.

Pinheiro is no stranger to Myanmar, which he has visited on several occasions in the past as UN rapporteur on human rights issues. The last time he was allowed a visa to the country was in 2003.

This time he arrived amid growing optimism that Myanmar's political stalemate may crack. - Sapa

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