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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Myanmar Relaxes Crackdown on Protesters

YANGON, Myanmar -- Myanmar's ruling junta has restored Internet service and relaxed a nighttime curfew, easing a crackdown on pro-democracy activists as a UN envoy went to Asia on Sunday to rally regional help for Myanmar's crisis.

Internet cafe owners around Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, said they were looking forward to reopening after service was restored Sunday.

The curfew was cut to four hours -- 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. -- starting Saturday night. It was initially 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

But a crackdown continued over the weekend on the leaders of the pro-democracy protests.

On Saturday, Myanmar security forces arrested four prominent political activists who had been hiding from a government manhunt, after they were involved in some of the first major marches against the government several weeks ago, London-based human rights group Amnesty International said.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the arrests "clearly demonstrate that there needs to be an international presence on the ground," referring to United Nations envoy Ibrahim Gambari's current trip to Asian countries including Myanmar, which is also called Burma.

"We're encouraging special envoy Gambari to get back to Burma as soon as possible," Rice told reporters aboard her plane as she headed from Russia to the Middle East for a round of shuttle diplomacy.

Gambari was on his way to Bangkok for talks Monday with Thailand's leaders.

He was then scheduled to travel to Malaysia, Indonesia, India, China and Japan before returning to Myanmar, on a mission to coordinate key Asian governments' efforts to help resolve the crisis.

European Union foreign ministers meeting Monday will assess ways to punish the military junta in Myanmar for its crackdown on opposition forces.

The EU ministers are expected to slap a slew of new sanctions against Myanmar's military regime, including fresh bans on investments, visa bans and a freeze on junta members' assets. They will also be seeking to expand bans on imports from Myanmar of such products as timber, gemstones and precious metals.

n A delegation of Myanmar military officials arrived in Russia on Thursday to tour arms factories, including the Sokol Design Bureau in Kazan, the Defense Ministry said in a statement posted on its web site Friday

Despite a bleak human rights record and U.S. and EU arms embargos, for many countries, including Russia, Myanmar is just another customer for arms dealers.

From 1988 to 2006, Myanmar imported almost $1.7 billion in weapons from China, its biggest supplier, according to records kept by the Arms Transfers Project of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Russia came in second place at $396 million, followed by Serbia and Ukraine.

AP, Bloomberg