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U.N. says Myanmar has more work to do

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Despite positive political developments in Myanmar, the government has a long way to go in addressing human rights concerns, a U.N. official said.

Last week, the government in Myanmar released around 200 prisoners as part of a general amnesty given to an estimated 6,300 detainees.

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The release followed an appeal to the government from the head of the state-backed National Human Rights Commission to set free prisoners accused of ordinary crimes so they can participate in "nation-building tasks."

Tomas Ojea Quintana, the U.N. special envoy on human rights in Myanmar, told the U.N. General Assembly that despite the political progress, he was receiving allegations of human rights violations.

"Measures to ensure justice and accountability, including access to the truth, are essential for Myanmar to face its past and current human rights challenges and to move forward toward national reconciliation," he said in a statement.

Human Rights Watch staff members expressed concern about ethnic violence in northern Myanmar. The organization in September said sexual violence and torture against ethnic communities were on the rise in that region.

Quintana said those complaints, along with reports of military forces using prisoners as human shields, showed there was much work to be done in Myanmar.

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