Thu, Oct 04, 2007 - Page 1 News List

EU votes to expand sanctions against junta

WITCH HUNT Junta soldiers reportedly went door to door looking for pro-democracy protesters, terrifying people in Yangon, said Acting US Ambassador Shari Villarosa


EU nations agreed yesterday to expand sanctions against Myanmar's military regime to protest the crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators, diplomats said.

Portugal, which holds the EU presidency, said in a statement the 27-nation bloc would "toughen EU sanctions against the regime." Diplomats said extra sanctions would include an expanded visa ban for members of the military junta, as well as expanded import bans on such products as timber and gemstones. The new measures would be given a final approval by EU foreign ministers in two weeks' time, diplomats said.

Meanwhile, soldiers announced they were hunting pro-democracy protesters in Myanmar's largest city yesterday and the top US diplomat in the country said that military police were pulling people out of their homes during the night.

Military vehicles patrolled the streets before dawn with loudspeakers blaring, "We have photographs. We are going to make arrests!"

Shari Villarosa, the acting US ambassador in Myanmar, said in a telephone interview that people in Yangon were terrified.

"From what we understand, military police ... are traveling around the city in the middle of the night, going into homes and picking up people," she said.

Residents living near Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar's most revered shrine and a flash point of unrest, reported that police swept through several dozen homes in the middle of the night, dragging away several men for questioning.

The homes were located above shops at a marketplace that caters to the nearby pagoda, selling monks robes and begging bowls.

The security forces were looking for people who had participated in demonstrations since mid-August, which troops brutally crushed on Sept. 26 and Sept. 27 with live gunfire, tear gas and baton charges.

The government says 10 people were killed but dissident groups put the toll at about 200. In addition, they say, some 6,000 people have already been arrested, including thousands of Buddhist monks who led the demonstrations, which initially started in protest against a massive hike in fuel prices.

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