UN envoy arrives in Myanmar to evaluate reform

YANGON: A special United Nations envoy arrived today in Myanmar to evaluate progress on reform, with a prominent former political prisoner saying human rights in the military-ruled nation are at “the abyss.” Envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana’s third visit follows the

release from almost seven years of detention of the deputy leader of the pro-democracy party led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Quintana is expected to meet several key government officials in the country’s administrative capital of Naypyitaw and members of the opposition during his five-day trip. He also is to tour Yangon’s notorious Insein prison and another prison in the northwestern state of Rakhine. The envoy also has requested a meeting with Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest. He was barred from seeing her on his previous visits.

Win Tin, one of the country’s longest-serving former prisoners, called on Quintana to “be decisive and perform his duties in the strictest manner without falling prey to the lies of the government.” “Myanmar’s human rights conditions are at the abyss. The government continues to violate human rights and they don’t have the will to alleviate human rights conditions,” said Win Tin, a senior member of Suu Kyi’s party.

Quintana said in a statement last week that it would be important to meet with political party leaders ahead of this year’s general elections, which he described as “a critical time” for Myanmar.

The UN envoy said last week he would press for the release of political prisoners, review progress on reform within the armed forces and check on the revision of laws to ensure compliance with international human rights standards.

The human rights envoy

will present his findings at a

meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council in March.

Suu Kyi’s party spokesman, Nyan Win, said the party welcomed the U.N. envoy’s visit since gross human rights violations were continuing. “His visit won’t be able to totally address the human rights issue but the visit can certainly contain human rights abuses,” Nyan Win said Sunday.

A day earlier, the regime

released the party’s vice

chairman, Tin Oo, from house arrest, but it still holds some 2,100 political prisoners.

Today, Tin Oo received a rousing welcome from party members, telling about 100 of them he hoped Suu Kyi would also be freed soon, noting that in 1995 he was released from an earlier stint in prison not long before Suu Kyi was set free.

“(Suu Kyi) and I have a history. She was released three months after I was freed,” he said.

Tin Oo, a former defence

minister and highly decorated battlefield commander, became

a trusted ally of Suu Kyi’s after

joining Myanmar’s democratic movement. Tin Oo said, “The

more the UN human rights envoys visit Myanmar the better it will be for the country.”

Win Tin said earlier visits

made things more bearable for

political prisoners.