(Guardian) - The Burmese military admitted it was interrogating hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators and hunting for more, as reports emerged of the first Buddhist monks to be jailed for protesting.
In their state-run newspaper today, the junta said nearly 3,000 protesters had been arrested, many of whom are still being interrogated.
They also said only people who agreed to sign "pledges" not to take part in further demonstrations were being released.
In an official statement published in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, the military leaders said: "Those who led, got involved in and supported the unrest which broke out in September were called in and are being interrogated.
"Some are still being called in for questioning and those who should be released will be."
The statement said 2,927 people had been arrested since the crackdown started, and nearly 500 were still in custody.
There were no details of the pledges those released were required to sign. But some free protesters said they involved a promise not to support the pro-democracy movement.
The statement said if the Buddhist monks who led the protests had stayed in their monasteries the protests would not have been put down.
The news agency Reuters said a 26-year-old monk, Eik Darea , has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years for taking part in the protests.
"He was charged with inciting public unrest and illegal association. I'm so sorry he might be sent to a labour camp," a monastic source told Reuters.
It said he was sentenced by a district court in Sittwe , the capital of the north-western state of Rakhine , where several protests took place last month.
There was little word on the closed trials that have taken place in Rangoon. But yesterday relatives of five members of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy said they, too, have been jailed for seven-and-a-half years for taking part in the protests.
At least one active member of the National League for Democracy has died under interrogation, it emerged last week.
Today Amnesty International said it had new evidence of ongoing night raids, arbitrary arrests and appalling detention conditions in Burma.
Catherine Baber , head of Amnesty's Asia-Pacific programme , said: "If authorities have nothing to hide, why are they still refusing to grant even the International Committee of the Red Cross full and unfettered access to all those detained?"
Meanwhile, some of the leaders of the protests, who are still in hiding, have called on the United Nations to impose a ban on arms sales and investment to Burma.
Members of 88 Generation of Students, named after the previous crackdown on pro-democracy rallies, made the call in a letter to the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki -Moon.
It said: "This may be the last letter we send to you before our own arrest and torture and we send it with the utmost urgency."
The letter also accused the military rulers of duping the international community.
"While the military regime announces to the world that it is willing to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi , on the other hand, it is trying to eliminate democracy forces by using violence and arbitrary arrest," it said.
Earlier today the UN envoy, Ibrahim Gambari , said he wanted to return to Burma earlier than planned for a second meeting with the country's reclusive leader, General Than Shwe .
"It's important to meet the senior general because that gives the authoritative response to any of the queries that have been made," he said today on a visit to Malaysia as part of a six-country tour of Asia to discuss the crisis in Burma.
Mr Gambari was dispatched to Burma after last month's protests to express the UN's concern about the brutal crackdown of the demonstrations.
He was scheduled to return by mid-November, but he said today he was in discussions about going back "a bit earlier".
Mr Gambari is hoping to persuade Asian countries to take the lead in pressing Burma to begin talks with pro-democracy leaders instead of locking them up.