Friday, November 16, 2007
PINHEIRO: 'I'LL REVEAL BURMA'S DEATH TOLL'
pecial UN human rights investigator for Burma, Sergio Paulo Pinheiro left Rangoon yesterday after being permitted to meet with several political detainees at Insein Prison. Upon reaching Bangkok, he told journalists that his visit had enabled him to determine the numbers killed and detained in the regime's brutal crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. He said he would not be reporting the numbers until his formal report to the UN has been finished.
"I'm compiling the documents. In two weeks I will have this number," Pinheiro told reporters in Bangkok, where he flew Thursday from Myanmar...Among those Mr. Pinheiro was allowed to meet, was veteran journalist (and veteran political prisoner) 78 year-old Win Tin who has been held since 1989, and the recently captured labour rights activist Su Su Nway who has been on a hunger strike. She had been arrested along with another National League for Democracy member, as well as the driver of the taxi she was riding on Tuesday after putting up leaflets in Rangoon.
"Of course, I am happy that large numbers of people have been released, but I have my concerns about the situation of those who have not been released," Pinheiro said in Yangon on Thursday.
Prior to Pinheiro's departure Thursday, the government released nearly 200 prisoners, including six political detainees. A seventh imprisoned activist refused to sign a declaration to refrain from political activity, and remains behind bars. Among the six prisoners of conscience released from Insein, five were NLD members. One of them is Thet Naung Soe, who was sentenced to 14 years for a solo protest at Rangoon City Hall in 2002. Mr. Pinheiro tried but failed to meet Min Ko Naing, a leader of the Generation 88 movement arrested during the latest protests.
He also failed to see the captured monk leader U Gambira who, his family have reported to The Irrawaddy, has been charged with treason. Punishment for this in Burma is a life sentence, or death.
His mother told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that authorities told U Gambira’s family that he is charged with treason for his leading role in the September mass demonstrations.His father is believed to be held at Insein Prison, but the monk's whereabouts are unknown. Several other of his family members had been arrested and held hostage in lieu of his apprehension, but have not been released since his arrest early this month.
U Gambira was arrested from a hiding place in Kyaukse, central Burma, in early November. “They [the security forces] also arrested his father at the time,” said U Gambira’s mother...
“I am very worried,” said his mother. “I am so sad for my son and my husband. They might be tortured during interrogation. But I am proud of him [U Gambira]. Since his childhood, my son has been active in helping other people.”