Myanmar arrests 3 during U.N. rights envoy visit

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YANGON, Nov 14 (Reuters) Myanmar's military junta arrested three young men for pinning up anti-government leaflets in the main city, Yangon, today as a crackdown on dissent continued during a visit by a UN human rights envoy. An opposition source said the three were detained in a fruit market a day after the arrest of labour activist Su Su Nway, who had been on the run since the army crushed democracy protests in September.

UN envoy Sergio Paulo Pinheiro, visiting the former Burma to get to the bottom of the regime's bloody crackdown on democracy protests in September, was expected to raise her arrest in meetings with government officials today.

''He was disturbed by the fact that the arrest had been done,'' Charles Petrie, the top UN diplomat in Myanmar, told Reuters.

''He still has some meetings with authorities and Professor Pinheiro is pretty straightforward and frank, so I would expect him to raise that and other issues,'' he said.

Pinheiro has visited Yangon's notorious Insein prison and other places where September marchers were interrogated, but was still waiting for permission to interview detainees before he leaves on Thursday night.

Official media say all but 91 of the nearly 3,000 arrested were released after questioning.

The official death toll has been put at 10, but an Asian diplomat who attended Pinheiro's briefing in the jungle capital, Naypyidaw, said the junta now acknowledged 14 people had died from ''direct shooting and later deaths in hospital''.

Western governments say the real number is probably far higher.

MONKS ARRESTED Opposition sources said on Tuesday two fugitive Buddhist monks who led some of the biggest anti-junta marches in late September had been arrested on Nov. 4, the day after UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari's second visit to Myanmar began.

Gambari told the UN Security Council on Tuesday the Myanmar government had assured him it would make no more arrests.

He also said the situation in Myanmar was ''qualitatively different'' from a few weeks ago and he believed the government could respond to international pressure for change.

Despite doubts raised by Western ambassadors about the regime's willingness to negotiate, Gambari said he would return ''again and again and again'' to promote what he hoped would be ''substantive dialogue'' with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

In a statement released through Gambari last week, Suu Kyi said she was ''optimistic'' after two meetings with the junta's new liaison minister and she was ready to work with the military ''in the interest of the nation''.

A group of 12 ethnic political parties backed Suu Kyi's statement on Wednesday, saying they hoped she and ethnic leaders could sit down with the generals to get Myanmar ''over the crises and for the interests of the entire nation to emerge''.

However, two small ethnic groups were quoted in official media as rejecting Suu Kyi's leadership, leading some opposition members to question the junta's sincerity. ''I believe these ethnic groups would not have said so without being urged by the regime,'' a retired government official told Reuters.

REUTERS ARB RN1803

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