UN rights envoy meets top Myanmar dissident

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YANGON, Nov 15 (Reuters) The UN rights envoy to Myanmar met a prominent dissident in Yangon's notorious Insein Prison today, the final day of a visit to probe September's bloody crackdown on democracy protests, a diplomatic source said.

There were no details of Sergio Paulo Pinheiro's meeting with Min Ko Naing, jailed since mid-August when the ruling military started to clamp down on protests against high fuel prices and falling living standards.

The source said Pinheiro did not appear to have met any other dissidents being held in the jail in the northern outskirts of Yangon, the former Burma's main city.

The junta says all but 91 of the nearly 3,000 people rounded up in the crackdown have been released, although one Yangon-based diplomat said the number still in detention was in fact around 1,000.

''The official figure is out by a factor of about 10,'' the diplomat said.

That estimate does not include the 1,100 prisoners of conscience the United Nations and human rights groups say were already being held before the protests started.

Official media say 10 people were killed in the crackdown, although Western governments say the real toll is likely to be far higher.

Min Ko Naing, Myanmar's second-most prominent political figure after detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was freed in 2004 after 15 years in jail for leading 1988 student protests that were crushed by the army.

Once free, he continued to criticise the military which has ruled the country for 45 years.

He was among 13 dissidents arrested in August, accused of causing civil unrest and undermining peace and security, charges that could see them spend 20 years in prison.

Despite many reports of detainees being caged in animal-like conditions during September's crackdown, some of the ''88 Generation Students'', as Min Ko Naing's group is known, appeared to have been fairly well-treated, the Yangon-based diplomat said.

Pinheiro was due to leave Yangon today evening, and to hold a news conference in Bangkok late tomorrow about the findings of his five-day trip. It was the first time he has been given a visa in four years.

REUTERS PD BST1708

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