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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Human Rights Envoy Arrives in Myanmar

YANGON, Myanmar -- A UN human rights envoy was allowed to enter military-ruled Myanmar for the first time in four years Sunday on a mission to determine how many people have been killed or detained since the start of a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the UN's independent rights investigator for Myanmar, says he is determined to gain access to the country's prisons as part of an investigation into wide-ranging allegations of abuse by the military junta.

"I hope I will have a very productive stay," Pinheiro told reporters after flying into Yangon, Myanmar's largest city. "I'm just very happy to be back here after four years."

Pinheiro has a history of prickly relations with the ruling generals. He abruptly cut short a visit in March 2003 after finding a listening device in a room at a prison where he was interviewing political detainees. Later that year, he accused the junta of making "absurd" excuses to keep political opponents in prison.

He had been barred from the country since November 2003.

The junta, which has long been criticized for human rights abuses, has come under renewed international pressure since it crushed pro-democracy demonstrations led by Buddhist monks in September.

Myanmar authorities said 10 people were killed when troops opened fire on crowds of peaceful protesters in Yangon on Sept. 26 and 27.

Diplomats and dissidents, however, say the death toll was much higher and that an unknown number of people remain in custody.

"If they don't give me full cooperation, I'll go to the plane, and I'll go out," Pinheiro said last month after receiving permission to return to Myanmar.