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World News

Myanmar activist arrested during U.N. envoy visit

YANGON (Reuters) - Prominent Myanmar rights activist Su Su Nway was arrested in the main city Yangon on Tuesday after being on the run since the army crushed pro-democracy protests in late September.

Prominent labour activist Su Su Nway poses under the portrait of her role model, democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, at the National League for Democracy party headquarters in Yangon, September 17, 2006.The 34-year old activist, who had been on the run since the monks-led protests were crushed on September, was arrested in Yangon this morning, activist sources said. REUTERS/Aung Hla Tun/Files

The 34-year-old was putting up leaflets when she was detained, an opposition source said, on the same day that U.N. human rights envoy Sergio Paulo Pinheiro met junta officials in the capital, Naypyidaw, 400 km (250 miles) north of Yangon.

The Brazilian law professor, on his first trip to the former Burma in four years, visited Yangon’s notorious Insein prison and other sites on Monday where protesters were held.

“The Special Rapporteur was given assurances that he will be able to interview detainees, before the end of his mission, as requested,” a statement from the U.N. office in Myanmar said on Tuesday.

It was not clear if Pinheiro was aware of the arrest of Su Su Nway, who joined street protests against shock fuel price hikes in August and early September.

She became a well-known activist after being jailed for nine months in 2005 for helping to prosecute two officials from her village for using forced labor, a practice that is officially outlawed but believed to still occur.

Opposition sources also said on Tuesday two fugitive Buddhist monks who led some of the biggest anti-junta marches in late September were arrested on November 4 in Sagaing Division, 400 miles northwest of Yangon.

“Nobody knows their whereabouts, but they are likely to be kept in Insein Prison,” one opposition source said.

One of the detained monks was 27-year-old U Gambira, a leader of the All-Burmese Monks Alliance, the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma said on its website.

Hundreds of maroon-robed monks were among the 2,927 people official media say were rounded up in the September crackdown.

State papers have denied any monks were among the 10 official dead, even though monks reported that at least five of their brethren were killed when soldiers and pro-government thugs raided monasteries thought to be leading the protests.

Several photos have emerged on the Internet of what appear to be mutilated bodies of dead monks, although it is impossible to known when or where they were taken.

Official media say all but 91 of those arrested were released after questioning -- a figure that, like the junta’s death toll, Pinheiro is likely to probe in great detail.

Western governments say the real toll is probably far higher.

Before the crackdown, Amnesty International estimated the junta was holding around 1,100 political prisoners, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years.

Pinheiro arrived days after the departure of Ibrahim Gambari, the U.N.’s point-man on Myanmar, whose second visit since September sparked hopes the generals might be willing to talk about reform with Suu Kyi.

Writing by Darren Schuettler; Editing by Caroline Drees

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