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In Burma, junta steps up fear level

Monks flee after order to vacate

RANGOON, Burma - After crushing the democracy uprising with guns, Burma's junta stepped up its campaign to intimidate citizens yesterday, sending troops to drag people from their homes in the middle of the night and letting others know they were marked for retribution.

"We have photographs! We are going to make arrests!" soldiers yelled from speakers on military vehicles that patrolled the streets in Rangoon, Burma's biggest city.

People living near the Shwedagon Pagoda, Burma's most revered shrine and a flash point of unrest during the protests, reported that security forces swept through several dozen homes about 3 a.m., taking away many men and some women for questioning.

A UN Development Program employee, Myint Nwe Moe, and her husband, brother-in-law, and driver were among those detained, the UN agency said.

Dozens of Buddhist monks jammed Rangoon's main train station after being ordered to vacate their monasteries - centers of the antigovernment 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.

"People are terrified," said Shari Villarosa, the acting US ambassador in Burma. "People have been unhappy for a long time. Since the events of last week, there's now the unhappiness combined with anger, and fear."

In New York, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he would meet with the Security Council tomorrow to discuss possible actions for addressing human rights abuses in Burma, calling the situation here a top international concern.

Ban said his special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, delivered "the strongest possible message" to Burma's military leaders during a four-day visit to this Southeast Asian nation, but added that he could not call the trip "a success." The junta has not commented on Gambari's visit.

Gambari called on the regime to stop repression of peaceful protests, release detainees and move more credibly toward democratic reform, the UN spokesman's office said.

Anti-junta demonstrations broke out in mid-August over a fuel price increase, 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 squatted 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 footage appeared to have been made three or four days ago in downtown Rangoon.

The atmosphere remained tense, but Rangoon inched back toward a normal routine yesterday. Traffic returned and some shops reopened.

While troops rounded up people in Rangoon, 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.

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

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