"We have several witnesses who speak of people on the floor. There were some monks who were beaten up."
In the second city of Mandalay, also under curfew, the Asian Human Rights Commission said there was no opposition to 10,000 people protesting against grinding poverty, while in the northwest coastal town of Sittwe, which has seen some of the biggest protests outside Yangon, residents said 10,000 people also took to the streets.
As darkness fell in Yangon, people dispersed ahead of a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed on Tuesday and the streets were almost deserted.
The violence marked the first major action taken by the military government in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, after a massive hike in the price of fuel on August 19 triggered protests which have developed into a more deeply-rooted outpouring of dissent.
Louise Arbour, the UN high commissioner for human rights, warned Myanmar's rulers that they could face an international court for violence against the protesters.
|Myanmar's rulers have been warned they could |
face trial in an international court [AFP]
After an emergency meeting called by the US and the EU, the UN Security Council expressed concern at the violence and urged Myanmar's military government to exercise restraint.
"Members of the council have expressed their concern vis-a-vis the situation, and have urged restraint, especially from the government of Myanmar," a statement said.
The council also gave its strong backing to the secretary-general's special envoy on Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, whom Ban Ki-moon dispatched to Myanmar.
Ban urged the Myanmar government to exercise "utmost restraint" and "co-operate fully" with Gambari's mission.
China urged to act
The US and France also called on China to use its influence to press Myanmar's military government to open up a dialogue with opponents.
Tom Casey, a US state department spokesman, said: "We'd like them to use their influence, in whatever form they can, to convince the regime to change its views."
Diplomats say China has privately been speaking with the Myanmar generals to convey international concern, but Beijing has so far refrained from any public criticism.
Bradley Babson, a retired World Bank official who worked in Myanmar, said of the confrontation between the military and the monks: "This is a test of wills between the only two institutions in the country that have enough power to mobilise nationally.
"Between those two institutions, one of them will crack."