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No talks yet on Myanmar's future, UN rights expert reports

No talks yet on Myanmar's future, UN rights expert reports

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro
Sporadic talks between the Government of Myanmar and the leading opposition party have yet to result in the emergence of a structured political negotiation on the future of the country, a United Nations human rights expert said today.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, told a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York that leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD) informed him that there had been no negotiation or a political roadmap on what is the next step. Neither had there been any discussion on the question of elections and the freedom of political parties to operate without restrictions.

The Special Rapporteur said that the Government, however, is of the opinion that they are already engaged in dialogue with the NLD because they are now talking with the party's General Secretary, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, since the restoration of her freedom of movement in May.

Mr. Pinheiro, who had been in the country last month for meetings with several segments of society, said that since the release of Ms. Suu Kyi, there had been no incidents of retaliation against those who met with her, adding that political leaders are now free to travel and to reopen their party offices.

Even so, the NLD office was still under strict surveillance and the party needed to obtain a license permit before anything could be printed, including party cards, Mr. Pinheiro noted. “This is so ridiculous,” he said. “The government is so worried about any unrest, they try to control everything so tightly.”

On the issue of political prisoners, Mr. Pinheiro noted that the Government was not contesting the number of those held, but that the pace of release had been very slow. He said since January 2001, 435 political prisoners were released and since May another 155 were set free, leaving about 1,450 political prisoners left.