Burmese soldiers are hauling people away from their homes in the night and intimidating others with warnings that more pro-democracy protesters will be arrested in Rangoon, says the top U.S. diplomat in the country.
Military vehicles patrolled the streets of Rangoon before dawn Wednesday with loudspeakers blaring: "We have photographs. We are going to make arrests!" Soldiers pulled people from several dozen homes overnight, acting U.S. ambassador Shari Villarosa said.
She told the Associated Press that people were terrified in Rangoon, the country's commercial centre and former capital city, where a crackdown by the military rulers followed weeks of pro-democracy protests.
"From what we understand, military police… are travelling around the city in the middle of the night, going into homes and picking up people," she said.
Witnesses said at least eight truckloads of prisoners were removed from the centre of the city early Wednesday.
At the same time, the regime said it has released about 80 Buddhist monks arrested in Rangoon during the crackdown last week.
One of the released monks, interviewed by the Reuters news agency, said he and the other monks were allowed to return to theirmonastery shortly after midnight.
At the same time, reports from Rangoon said about two dozenmonks were arrested by security forces in a raid on a temple overnight.
The BBC quoted sources who said the hundreds of monks still in custody for leading the protests will be sent to prisons in the far north of the country.
The latest arrestsfollow a meeting between Burma's top general and United Nations envoy Ibrahim Gambari on Tuesday in the southeast Asian country also known as Myanmar.
Gambari is now in Singapore, preparing a report on his trip before returning to New York on Thursday. He hasn't said what was discussed in his hour-long meeting with Burmese junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe, but Gambari is expected to report to the UN secretary general on Friday.
Amnesty calls foraction
Pro-democracy groups are expressing disappointment with the outcome of the diplomatic mission and Amnesty International has called for aUnited Nationsplan of action to end the oppression.
Brian Jones, Amnesty International Canada's co-ordinator for Burma, told CBC Newsworld on Wednesday thatwhile the human rights group welcomedGambari's short visit, it wants the UN Security Council to set up a special mission "to investigate the situation on the ground."
He said the council should also pass an arms embargo to stop the flow of military supplies to Burma from its primary sources— China, India, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and Singapore— until the Burmese government shows that it is "prepared to take concrete steps to improve and respect human rights in Myanmar."
Amnesty wants the UN Human Rights Council to issue a strong condemnation of the military crackdown and call on the Burmese government to take steps to ensure the whereabouts and well-being of detainees.
Public anger, which ignited Aug. 19 after the government hiked fuel prices, later turned into protests against 45 years of military dictatorship.
Hundreds of people have been detained in a bid tohalt the protests. The authorities have reported 10 fatalities on the streets, butdiplomats saythe number is likely much higher.