Image: Austrailian demonstrators
Tim Wimborne  /  Reuters
A group of demonstrators in Sydney call for the U.N. to help stop a crackdown on pro-democracy protestors in the nation formerly known as Burma.
updated 10/3/2007 4:36:35 PM ET 2007-10-03T20:36:35

After crushing the democracy uprising with guns, Myanmar’s junta switched to an intimidation campaign Wednesday, sending troops to drag people from their homes in the middle of the night and letting others know they were marked for arrest.

People living near the Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar’s most revered shrine and a flash point of unrest during the protests, reported that police swept through several dozen homes about 3 a.m., dragging away many men for questioning.

A U.N. Development Program employee, Myint Nwe Moe, and her husband, brother-in-law and driver were among those taken away by police, the U.N. agency said.

Dozens of Buddhist monks jammed Yangon’s main train station after being ordered to vacate their monasteries — centers of the anti-government demonstrations — and told to go back to their hometowns and villages.

It was not clear who ordered them out. Older abbots in charge of monasteries are seen as tied to the ruling military junta, while younger monks are more sympathetic to the democracy movement.

Following the night of widespread detentions, military vehicles patrolled the streets in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, with loudspeakers blaring a warning: “We have photographs. We are going to make arrests!”

“People are terrified,” said Shari Villarosa, the acting U.S. ambassador in Myanmar. “People have been unhappy for a long time. Since the events of last week, there’s now the unhappiness combined with anger, and fear.”

Beatings in the streets
Anti-junta demonstrations broke out in mid-August over a fuel price hike, then ballooned when monks took the lead last month. But the military crushed the protests a week ago with bullets, tear gas and clubs. The government said 10 people were killed, but dissident groups put the death toll at up to 200 and say 6,000 people were detained.

New video broadcast on CNN showed police and soldiers rounding up demonstrators and beating them before loading them on trucks. In one view, about six young men squat on the street, hands on their heads, cringing. One in a red shirt — the color adopted by the protest movement — is singled out for particular abuse.

The video also showed a man lying on the ground, his shirt bloodied, while another man looked around frantically as he tried to help him.

The footage appeared to have been made three or four days ago in downtown Yangon.

Villarosa said her staff had found up to 15 monasteries completely empty during visits in recent days. Others were barricaded by the military and declared off-limits to outsiders.

“There is a significantly reduced number of monks on the streets. Where are the monks? What has happened to them?” she said.

Demonstrators released
While troops rounded up people in Yangon, some arrested protesters were let go elsewhere. The Democratic Voice of Burma, a dissident radio station based in Norway, said authorities freed 90 of some 400 monks who were detained in Kachin state’s capital, Myitkyina, during a raid on monasteries Sept. 25.

The atmosphere remained tense, but Yangon inched back toward a normal routine Wednesday. Traffic returned and street vendors braved the rain to offer flowers and food to people praying at the main pagoda. Some shops reopened.

Sanctions expanded
In Brussels, European Union nations agreed to expand sanctions on Myanmar’s military regime. Diplomats said new sanctions included an expanded visa ban for junta members, a wider ban on investment in Myanmar, and a ban on trade in the country’s metals, timber and gemstones.

But the new measures did not include a specific ban on European oil and gas companies from doing business in Myanmar, diplomats said.

The Southeast Asian nation, also known as Burma, has vast oil and gas deposits that are hungrily eyed by its neighbors — India, China and Thailand — as well as by multinational companies around the world. Myanmar is also known for its minerals, gems and timber.

Myanmar has been ruled by various military regimes since 1962. The current junta displaced another military dictatorship after turning soldiers loose against a 1988 democracy movement, killing at least 3,000 protesters.

The generals called elections in 1990 but refused to give up power when the party led by opposition leader and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won. She has spent nearly 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.

U.N. envoy meets with junta, dissidents
Suu Kyi, who remains in detention, met twice with a United Nations special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, during his four-day mission to Myanmar. Gambari left Tuesday after also meeting with junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe and his deputies to express international outrage over last week’s harsh crackdown.

The junta did not comment on Gambari’s visit, and the envoy was not expected to issue any statement before briefing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the situation Friday.

Earlier in the week, U.N. officials said Gambari would urge the junta to stop abusing its people.

“He’s calling on the authorities in Myanmar to cease the repression of peaceful protest, release detainees, and move more credibly and inclusively in the direction of democratic reform, human rights and national reconciliation,” U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Among those killed when troops opened fire on unarmed protesters in Yangon last week was Japanese television cameraman Kenji Nagai of the APF news agency. His body was flown to Tokyo on Wednesday, and Japan said it was reconsidering its aid to Myanmar.

Human Rights Watch in Bangkok, Thailand, presented a man they said was a Myanmar army major who fled his country. The group released a transcript of an interview with the unidentified man in which he expressed shock at the crackdown.

“They (the demonstrators) were very peaceful. Later when I heard they were shot and killed and the armed forces used tear gas, I was really upset,” the man was quoted as saying.

Human Rights Watch declined to allow The Associated Press to interview or photograph the man, saying it would compromise his safety.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments