TOPICS > Politics

U.N. Envoy Reports on Extent of Myanmar Crackdown

December 13, 2007 at 6:45 PM EDT

JIM LEHRER: Next, an update on the suppression of anti-government demonstrators in Myanmar, also known as Burma. The United Nations special envoy for human rights was in the Southeast Asian nation recently. We have a report from Inigo Gilmore of Independent Television News.

INIGO GILMORE, ITV News Special Correspondent: The crackle of gunfire. Protestors cowering in terror. Three months on from this, Paulo Piniero has delivered his damning report.

PAULO SERGIO PINIERO, U.N. Human Rights Envoy: The security forces used, in my opinion, excessive force against civilians, including unnecessary and disproportionate lethal force.

INIGO GILMORE: For Burma’s representative, it was uncomfortable reading, with Mr. Piniero challenging the regime over its severe reprisals and the scale of its crackdown.

PAULO SERGIO PINIERO: Reliable sources believe, however, that many more monks were detained or disappeared. The monasteries are still under surveillance by the authorities.

INIGO GILMORE: And it’s not just the monasteries. We met with this man who recently fled Rangoon after his house was raided. He smuggled out these previously unseen images of the crackdown, evidence which tallies closely with Mr. Piniero’s own findings about the excessive use of force.

They show heavily armed, psyched-up soldiers arriving to confront the unarmed protestors. These men are from the Rangoon military command. Suddenly, they advance.

BURMESE REFUGEE: This was a fire. This is a rubber bullet. After the rubber bullet, they are shooting the real bullet, yes.

INIGO GILMORE: After the rubber bullet, they’re shooting the real one, into the crowd?

BURMESE REFUGEE: Yes, into the crowd.

INIGO GILMORE: And you saw them shooting into the crowd?

BURMESE REFUGEE: Yes, people off to the side, they are shooting while people are running.

INIGO GILMORE: The soldiers go street to street, hunting down protestors, some coming ominously close to his camera. And he witnessed how hired thugs were brought in to help rough up protestors, echoing the U.N. envoy’s report, which says these men contributed to the excessive use of force against peaceful protestors.

Their handiwork was soon in evidence. This man among many who were brutally beaten.

Certainly, Mr. Piniero, here during his fact-finding mission to Rangoon, believes those killed are many more than the official total of 15. Among the report’s disturbing findings: accounts of bodies with serious injuries being wrapped in bags and burned in the middle of the night, dead monks probably among them, and of dozens still unaccounted for.

So he’s demanded a full commission of inquiry to establish what happened, something Burma’s military regime is unlikely to agree to.