(AFP) – Oct 2, 2007
YANGON (AFP) — A UN special envoy on Tuesday met with Myanmar's top general Than Shwe and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, wrapping up a mission aimed at halting a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests.
Ibrahim Gambari had waited for days to see the reclusive military supremo to express global outrage after his regime put down demonstrations led by Buddhist monks, leaving at least 13 dead and more than 1,000 arrested.
After meeting Than Shwe in the remote capital Naypyidaw, Gambari made a brief surprise visit to Aung San Suu Kyi, whom he also saw on Sunday, in the main city of Yangon before heading to Singapore, UN officials said.
After landing in the city-state he was whisked away from waiting reporters and did not immediately comment.
Gambari's high-level talks came as the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva condemned the crackdown.
The council "strongly deplores the continued violent repression of peaceful demonstrations in Myanmar ... and urges the government of Myanmar to exercise utmost restraint and to desist from further violence against peaceful protestors," according to the text of the approved resolution.
The motion also called for the immediate release of those detained during the protests and of other political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi.
Gambari's visit came as activists struggled to assess the scope of the crackdown -- for which the junta said it was not to blame -- and to find hundreds of dissidents, monks and civilians who were arrested or are missing.
UN and junta officials told AFP that at least 1,000 people have been detained at the Government Technical Institute campus in Yangon.
Tony Banbury, Asia regional director for the UN World Food Programme, said he was concerned at reports that the detainees, including some 500 monks, were now being moved to another location, heightening fears for their wellbeing.
A Myanmar official talking on condition of anonymity said that up to 1,700 people had been detained at the campus, including about 200 women and at least one child, a novice monk believed to be 10 years old.
They were being kept inside a windowless warehouse, where the monks have been disrobed and many of them were refusing to eat, he added.
Some have simply refused to accept food from the military, or rejected it because the food arrives in the afternoon when monks are barred by religious oath from eating, the official said.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer described the security sweep as "brutal" and said the number of dead was "substantially higher" than the 13 confirmed so far.
"We think that at least 30 have been killed, about 1,400 people have been arrested," he told reporters. "This is a brutal regime and we've seen it at work over the last few days."
The demonstrations were the biggest challenge in nearly two decades to the regime, which has ruled for 45 years and stifles any sign of dissent.
But speaking at the United Nations in New York, Foreign Minister Nyan Win blamed the unrest on political "opportunists" and insisted the junta was not responsible for the violence.
He said the security forces had shown "utmost restraint" in handling the protests, which began in mid-August following a huge fuel price increase but escalated last week after monks joined the movement, bringing 100,000 people into the streets for several days in a row.
People, cars and buses were returning to the streets of Yangon on Tuesday, as citizens tried to attend to their jobs and businesses, but the atmosphere remained tense and significant monasteries continued to be blockaded.
"We have to work for our living so we came downtown to do our jobs today," said one woman, a carpark attendant.
Although the security presence had dropped off and a dusk-till-dawn curfew had eased, soldiers were still stationed at the main rallying points of last week's protests, including City Hall and two key pagodas.
Meanwhile, Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka held talks in Naypyidaw with top military officials to demand answers over the death of a Japanese journalist gunned down while covering the protests.
In a sombre ceremony attended by his employer and two diplomats from the Japanese embassy, prayers were said and flowers were offered Tuesday at the scene of Kenji Nagai's death.
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