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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Junta Cracks Down on Monasteries

YANGON, Myanmar -- Myanmar's military leaders stepped up pressure on monks who spearheaded pro-democracy rallies, saying Sunday that weapons had been seized from Buddhist monasteries and threatening to punish all violators of the law.

The government also announced dozens of new arrests, defying global outrage and new sanctions.

Security eased in the largest city of Yangon more than a week after soldiers and police opened fire on demonstrators peacefully seeking an end to 45 years of military dictatorship.

Some roadblocks were removed and visitors began trickling back to the heavily guarded Shwedagon and Sule pagodas, the starting and finishing points of protests that began in mid-August over a sharp fuel price increase.

The government says at least 10 people were killed in its Sept. 26-27 crackdown -- though independent sources say the toll was likely much higher -- and that around 1,000 remain in detention centers.

They include at least 135 monks, according to The New Light of Myanmar, a mouthpiece of the junta. It said recent raids on monasteries had turned up guns, knives and ammunition, although it was not yet clear to whom they belonged.

"Monks must adhere to the laws of God and the government," the paper wrote. "If they violate those laws, action could be taken against them."

In addition, 78 more people suspected of involvement in the rallies were being questioned by investigators, it said.

Tens of thousands of people turned out for last month's protests, the biggest in nearly two decades against brutal military rule. The junta's bloody crackdown sparked international condemnation -- including from its Southeast Asian neighbors.

Malaysia urged the military regime on Sunday to quickly hold unconditional talks with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest, before the world pushes harder for political change.

The comments by Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar followed a warning from the United States that it would push for United Nations sanctions against Myanmar if it fails to move toward democracy.

China and Russia, however, have expressed opposition to any such action, and Myanmar's foreign minister, Nyan Win, told the UN General Assembly last week that democracy cannot be imposed from outside."

The junta's propaganda machine, meanwhile, continued to claim massive rallies across the country, allegedly in support of the government. The paper said demonstrators denounced the recent protests "instigated" by some monks and members of Suu Kyi's party.

Demonstrators waved placards and shouted, "We want peace, we don't want terrorists." The state newspaper reported that four rallies were held, attended by 7,500, 19,000, 20,000 and 30,000 people.

Such rallies are widely believed to be stage-managed by the government, with local every families forced to contribute one or two members.

The military has ruled Myanmar since 1962. The current junta came to power after routing a 1988 pro-democracy uprising, killing at least 3,000 people. Suu Kyi's party won elections in 1990, but the generals refused to accept the results.