UN, MSF Staffers Detained in Arakan

By Nyein Nyein 29 June 2012

The United Nations in Burma is negotiating the release of its local employees who have been detained by security forces in Arakan State.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, Aye Win, a spokesman for the UN in Burma, said, “We are trying to arrange a meeting with the detained staff, and the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator has submitted a letter to the government regarding this situation. But we have had no official reply yet.”

UNHCR, which has an office in Maungdaw Township in northern Arakan State, has been providing humanitarian aid alongside the UN’s World Food Program and other agencies to persons displaced or affected by the ongoing sectarian violence in Arakan State. Aye Win said about 80,000 to 90,000 people have been affected since the crisis erupted nearly one month ago.

On Thursday, the New York Times reported that about six staffers from the UN and an equal number from Médecins Sans Frontières had been detained recently in Arakan State. Local sources, however, told The Irrawaddy that the UN employees were detained for questioning following local sectarian clashes, but were later released.

Aye Win said that UN aid is provided to people based only on humanitarian principles, and that the agency is independent, impartial and neutral when dividing provisions to people in need, “regardless of ethnicity or religion.”