UN Envoy Meets Burmese Political Prisoners, Aung San Suu Kyi

Posted August 24th, 2011 at 9:45 am (UTC-5)
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United Nations officials say special envoy Tomas Quintana spoke with political prisoners at Burma's notorious Insein Prison on Wednesday, ahead of what he described as a “very productive” meeting with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aye Win, a U.N. spokesman based in Burma, told VOA's Burmese service that Quintana was permitted to speak to all the political prisoners he asked for by name. He said the human rights envoy also visited the hospital and a meditation center at the prison, which is believed to hold many of Burma's more than 2,000 political prisoners.

Later Wednesday, Quintana met privately for about an hour with Aung San Suu Kyi before holding talks with senior officials of her National League for Democracy. NLD spokesman Ohn Kyaing told the Burmese service that Quintana described to them his talks this week with senior figures in the new Burmese government.

He said Quintana told the group he had done his best to impress on the Burmese leaders the importance of respecting human rights and the rule of law.

In a separate interview, NLD legal team member Nyan Win told the Burmese service that during his meeting with Quintana the two spoke about establishing an inquiry into human rights violations committed by the government.

He says Quintana said the inquiry would not be undertaken to punish any particular individual but to make sure there is some rule of law in the country.

Quintana, who is charged with assessing the human rights situation in Burma, had not been permitted to meet Aung San Suu Kyi during previous visits, when she was under house arrest.

Quintana has been in Burma since Sunday and is expected to comment on his findings before leaving the country Thursday.

Earlier this week, Quintana met with several top officials in the capital, Naypyitaw, including Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, Chief Justice Tun Tun Oo, and Defense Minister Gen. Hla Min. He also attended a regular session of the new parliament.

This is the first time in more than a year that Burmese officials have granted a visa to Quintana, who angered Burmese authorities last year by proposing that the United Nations establish a commission of inquiry to look into suspected crimes against humanity.

Quintana said before setting out on his current trip that he wanted to see how the human rights situation has changed since the installation of a new, nominally civilian-led government at the end of March.