August 1, 2008 / 7:46 PM / 11 years ago

UN investigator to assess human rights in Myanmar

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Myanmar’s military junta has invited a U.N. investigator to make his first visit next week so he can assess the human rights situation in the Southeast Asian country, the United Nations said on Friday.

Investigator Tomas Ojea Quintana, who will be in Myanmar from Sunday through Thursday, hopes to meet a number of government officials and heads of state institutions, the Geneva-based Human Rights Council said in a statement.

"The special rapporteur wishes to engage in a constructive dialogue with the authorities with a view to improving the human rights situation of the people of Myanmar," it said.

U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said in New York that Ojea Quintana has asked to the visit the area worst hit when Cyclone Nargis struck on May 2-3, leaving an estimated 138,000 people dead or missing, most of them in the Irrawaddy Delta.

He also hopes to meet with representatives of ethnic groups, political parties, religious groups, civil society and non-governmental organizations in the country formerly known as Burma, the Human Rights Council said.

It was unclear if he would try to see Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, whose house arrest was recently extended.

Ojea Quintana, whose own parents were political prisoners under a military regime in Argentina, has called on Myanmar to release her and all other political prisoners.

Last month, he said the junta’s arrest of a popular comedian campaigning for victims of Cyclone Nargis was part of continuing serious human rights violations in the country.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, will also visit this month. Gambari, seeking to promote democracy in Myanmar, will be making his fourth visit since the ruling junta cracked down on monk-led protests last September. (Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; editing by Todd Eastham)

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