UN Rights Investigator to Visit Burma Next Week

Posted August 16th, 2011 at 7:45 am (UTC-5)
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A United Nations investigator says he will travel to Burma next week to evaluate progress on human rights since a nominally civilian government took office this year.

Tomas Quintana told VOA's Burmese service Tuesday that the details of his trip are not complete but that his main objective is to assess the human rights situation in the context of the new government. He said he hopes he will be permitted to talk to anyone in Burma who has an interest in meeting him.

Quintana noted he has been calling since 2009 for the Burmese government to release its political prisoners, who are estimated to number more than 2,100. He told VOA it is the “first and basic right” in any democracy for people to be able to express themselves freely.

Burma held its first elections in 20 years in November and at the end of March, a new government took office replacing a long-ruling military junta. However, opposition parties were unable to compete fairly and the new government remains dominated by past and present military officers and their allies.

Quintana has galvanized critics of the Burmese government by proposing that the United Nations establish a commission of inquiry to look into suspected crimes against humanity perpetrated by Burma's leaders.

The United States, Canada, Australia and 12 European Union countries have already spoken in support of such a commission.