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March 24, 2003
 
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Envoy in Myanmar Finds Listening Device
U.N. Human Rights Envoy Visiting Myanmar Finds Hidden Listening Device, Suspends Trip

The Associated Press


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YANGON, Myanmar March 24

A visiting U.N. human rights envoy on Monday suspended his mission to Myanmar after finding a bugging device while conducting confidential interviews with political prisoners.

The envoy, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro of Brazil, said he found the bug while talking to political prisoners in Insein prison outside Yangon on Saturday.

Pinheiro told reporters he was leaving Yangon later Monday, two days ahead of schedule.

"I think that was a very serious incident and my untimely departure is an expression of my anger and frustration," he said, pounding the table with his fist. "I hope the government will demonstrate its willingness to continue to cooperate with the commission on human rights."

The envoy said he found a wireless microphone under the table in the room where he was conducting an interview.

"The authorities expressed regret on learning of the incident," according to a statement from the United Nations. "They gave the assurance that the incident would be investigated in full."

Pinheiro arrived in Yangon on Wednesday to investigate allegations of human rights abuses and evaluate the conditions of an estimated 1,000 political prisoners in the nation also known as Burma.

A foreign diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Pinheiro was "shocked and upset" when the device was found after he and his two colleagues heard a strange noise under the table.

Before interviewing the prisoners, Pinheiro had assured each person he or she could speak freely, the diplomat said.

The visit was one of a series of visits to compile a report scheduled to be delivered to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva at the end of the month.

Myanmar's junta has also faced criticism for failing to make progress in its reconciliation process with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Her party won the 1990 general elections but was never allowed to take power. Critics say the junta is not serious about restoring democracy.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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