Ten aid workers, including some UN staff, have been detained in western Myanmar in the wake of deadly communal unrest, the organization said yesterday, as rights groups warned of mass detentions of Muslims in the restive area.
In a bulletin on the situation in violence-wracked Rakhine state, the UN said humanitarian staff have been held for “questioning” — adding that Myanmar’s government has failed to respond to queries about those detained.
More than 80 people were killed in a wave of communal violence between ethnic Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya that swept the state last month, forcing tens of thousands to flee as homes were torched and communities ripped apart.
“At the moment, some 10 UN and INGO [international non-government organization] staff are kept in custody by the authorities of Rakhine state for questioning,” said a statement from the UN’s humanitarian agency, OCHA.
The UN “has reported to government the situation on several occasions and has requested the government for information about each detained staff member.”
Six local staff from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, Doctors Without Borders) were among those held, MSF confirmed in a statement yesterday, although one has since been released.
“We do not have full information on the reasons,” MSF said.
The medical charity temporarily suspended activities and reduced staff last month in its Rakhine state projects.
A state of emergency is still in force over several areas and Human Rights Watch yesterday alleged some within Myanmar’s security forces have carried out “mass round-ups” and other abuses on Muslim communities.
“While the Burmese army has largely contained the sectarian violence, abuses by security forces against Rohingya communities appear to be on the upsurge in recent weeks,” HRW said.