U.N. Envoy To Meet Myanmar Leader

Myanmar's junta leader stalled a U.N. envoy for yet another day Monday, delaying until Tuesday his chance to present world demands for an end to the junta's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

Ibrahim Gambari, the U.N.'s special envoy to Myanmar who has been in Myanmar since Saturday, has finally been given an appointment to meet with Senior Gen. Than Shwe on Tuesday in the junta's remote capital, Naypyitaw, an Asian diplomat said.

Instead of the meeting Monday that he had hoped for, Gambari was taken on a government-sponsored trip to attend a seminar in the far northern Shan state on EU's relations with Southeast Asia, said other diplomats. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.

After days of intimidation that snuffed out public protests, soldiers and riot police redeployed from the city center to the outskirts Monday, but were still checking cars and buses, and monitoring the city by helicopter.

But traffic was still light and most shops remained closed. Some monks were allowed to leave monasteries to collect food donations, watched by soldiers lounging under trees.

"It's outwardly quite normal at the moment. The traffic seems to be flowing, there's a lot of military tucked away in less visible locations," said British Ambassador Mark Canning.

"They've obviously for the moment squeezed things off the streets," he said.

Public anger, which ignited Aug. 19 after the government hiked fuel prices, turned into mass protests against 45 years of military dictatorship when Buddhist monks joined in. Soldiers responded last week by opening fire on unarmed demonstrators, killing at least 10 people by the government's account. Dissident groups say at least 200 people may have died.

On Monday, Sule Pagoda, one of the flash points of the unrest, was reopened. Barbed wire that had ringed the area since Friday was removed, witnesses said.

But monks appeared to be paying a heavy price for their role in spearheading the demonstrations.

An Asian diplomat said Monday all the arrested monks were defrocked - stripped of their highly revered status and made to wear civilian clothes. Some of them are likely to face long jail terms, the diplomat said on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.
A resident, who identified himself as Ko Hla, wrote on his Internet blog that the monks arrested for staging protests are being detained in a race course. "They are forced to squat down as prisoners under the sun during the day time and are forced to change into civilian clothes," he wrote.

It was not possible to confirm the report within the highly restricted country.

In Mandalay, Myanmar's second largest city, security forces arrested dozens of university students who staged a street protest on Sunday, a witness said.

The government's mouthpiece newspaper, meanwhile, said foreigners were partly to blame for the crisis that has engulfed the country.

"Internal and external destructionists are applying various means to destroy those constructive endeavors by the government and the people and to cause unrest and instability," the New Light of Myanmar said.

It said 11 people were arrested over the weekend in two separate demonstrations, several of them university students.

Some were carrying identification cards for studying English at the U.S. Embassy's American Center in Yangon, the paper said, adding that "weapons" seized included five slingshots and marbles, a pair of scissors and one sharp iron rod.

Hoping to end the crisis, the U.N. sent Gambari to Myanmar Saturday.

He spent the weekend in talks and in transit, pressing ahead with shuttle diplomacy even after his first meeting with the junta did not include Shwe, or his deputy, Gen. Maung Aye. He also met with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon.

Gambari returned to Myanmar's isolated capital of Naypyitaw for a second time in hopes of meeting Than Shwe on Monday.

Gambari 's hour-long talk with Suu Kyi on Sunday was unexpected - he did not know before he arrived if he would be allowed to meet the 1991 Nobel Peace prize winner who has come to symbolize the struggle for democracy in Myanmar. She has spent nearly 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.

Suu Kyi' National League for Democracy party was not optimistic Gambari would yield any influence over the junta leaders.

The junta has never responded well to international pressure in the past. But its desire for oil and gas investment, increased tourism and its status as a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations means it cannot follow a completely isolated path, as it has in the past.

"I do think a number of underlying dynamics have changed quite fundamentally and make us more hopeful that something might happen," said Canning, the British ambassador.

The crackdown in Myanmar has riveted the globe, with foreign governments from Asia, to North America to Europe calling on the junta to find a peaceful end to the crisis.

ASEAN, the 10-member bloc that includes Myanmar, wrote a letter to Than Shwe on Monday expressing revulsion at the violent repression of demonstrators.

Many see China, the junta's biggest trading partner, as the most likely outside catalyst for change. But so far, Beijing has only expressed concern.

Japan, the junta's largest aid donor, said Monday it was mulling sanctions or other actions to protest the crackdown, which left a Japanese video cameraman dead.

The military rulers have sought to limit news coming out of Myanmar, with public Internet access restricted and mobile phone service sporadic for a fourth day in a row.

Soldiers have gone to hotels in search of foreign journalists operating without permission. At least four local journalists have been arrested and others have been detained or harassed, Reporters Without Borders and Burma Media Association said in a statement.