At least 31 people were killed in Burma during a crackdown on anti-government protests in September, a UN human rights expert said today.

More than 600 people are being detained and 74 are listed as missing in the wake of the crackdown and Burma's government has not taken serious steps to respect human rights, UN expert Paulo Pinheiro said in a report.

Burma's junta had confirmed the deaths of 15 people during the unrest, but Mr Pinheiro said he had received information that at least a further 16 people had been killed.

Detainees remain subject to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and torture with political activists and human rights  defenders targeted, Mr Pinheiro said.

'Since the crackdown there have been an increasing number of reports of deaths in custody as well as beatings, ill-treatment,  lack of food, water or medical treatment in overcrowded unsanitary detention facilities across the country,' he added.

The UN expert visited the country in November, but regretted being unable to meet pro-democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi who is under house arrest.

He said he was 'reassured by the authorities that this option will remain on the agenda of his follow-up missions.'

Mr Pinheiro called on the government to release all those detained for peaceful protests and grant an unconditional amnesty to those already sentenced.