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Reuters-ICRC begins first ever pris

Subject: Reuters-ICRC begins first ever prison visits in Myanmar 

ICRC begins first ever prison visits in Myanmar
10:26 a.m. May 06, 1999 Eastern
GENEVA, May 6 (Reuters) - The International Committee of the Red Cross
(ICRC) said it began visits on Thursday to detainees held at a huge prison
near Yangon, its first ever such visits in Myanmar.

In a statement, the Swiss-run humanitarian agency said that under the terms
of a verbal agreement with Myanmar's ruling military government, the State
Peace and Development Council (SPDC), it would have access ``to all places
of detention in the country.''

Four ICRC delegates began visits at Insein Prison near Yangon, believed to
be the country's largest, according to Jean-Michel Monod, ICRC
director-general for Asia.

Monod, asked whether ICRC would have access to political prisoners, told
Reuters in Geneva: ``We will have access to all places of detention and to
the entire incarcerated population.''

The ICRC said visits would take place ``in accordance with the ICRC's
standard procedures.'' Under these, officials interview prisoners without
witnesses and may make follow-up visits.

The ICRC closed its Yangon office in July 1995 after failing to persuade the
military junta to sign a memorandum of understanding which would have
allowed Red Cross access to political prisoners.

Human rights organisations and the opposition National League for Democracy
(NLD) party led by Aung San Suu Kyi have accused the Myanmar government of
detaining hundreds of NLD members without trial and of curbing political
activity in the country.

Monod said ICRC was returning to Myanmar with just a verbal accord and no
formal memorandum of understanding, as was the case for years after it first
returned to Cambodia in 1992.