UN rights envoy visits Myanmar border

A UN envoy visited Myanmar`s western border Tuesday as part of a human rights inspection ahead of national polls, as campaigners denounced the junta`s treatment of ethnic groups in the area.

Last Updated: Feb 16, 2010, 14:04 PM IST

Yangon: A UN envoy visited Myanmar`s western border Tuesday as part of a human rights inspection ahead of national polls, as campaigners denounced the junta`s treatment of ethnic groups in the area.

The trip to the region on the border with Bangladesh is part of a five-day mission to assess the military regime`s progress on rights ahead of elections promised this year, the first in Myanmar for two decades.

Tomas Ojea Quintana left Yangon for Sittwe in Rakhine state on the state-run airline and was due to meet officials and non-governmental organisations before travelling by boat on Wednesday to visit a border prison, officials said.

"Mr Quintana will visit Butheetaung prison tomorrow," a Myanmar official told AFP on condition of anonymity. The official said Quintana would meet border control authorities at the prison and have dinner with state police.

Rakhine is home to thousands of Rohingya, an impoverished Muslim minority group that Myanmar refuses to recognise, and to local activists.

Amnesty International released a report Tuesday detailing the repression of activists including Rakhine monks, who the group said led a 2008 uprising that was bloodily suppressed with the loss of at least 31 lives. Related article: Myanmar must end minority repression, says Amnesty

"Any resolution of the country`s deeply troubling human rights record has to take into account the rights and aspirations of the country`s large population of ethnic minorities," the London-based group`s Myanmar expert Benjamin Zawacki said.

Many Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh where they are now facing mass arrests and no access to proper food and shelter, according to activists at The Arakan Project in a statement released Tuesday.
Quintana began his five-day trip on Monday, days after Myanmar authorities freed a key aide to democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi but amid criticism of the government`s election plans.
The Argentinean envoy met judges and opposition lawyers in the former capital Yangon on Monday but officials said there were no plans yet for him to meet either Suu Kyi or reclusive junta head Than Shwe.

PTI