Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Burma pardons three humanitarian aid workers

Wednesday, 29 August 2012 12:40 Mizzima News

Burma’s President Thein Sein pardoned two local UN staffer members and a third aid worker on Tuesday, who were sentenced to prison for their alleged roles in the sectarian unrest in Rakhine State.

A statement on the president’s website said they were pardoned, but gave no reason, and it was not known whether the three had been freed. The sentences ranged from two to six years in jail.

Two NGO workers with AZG, a Netherlands-based NGO, Kyaw Hla Aung, in blue longyi, and Win Naing, in red longyi, were released from Sittwe Prison on August 16, 2012. Burmese Minister Khin Yi said that 10 workers with international NGOs were arrested in connection with unrest in Rakhine State. Photo: Mizzima

A court in western Rakhine state convicted the three on various charges on Friday, including inciting unrest and arson.

The three—two brothers who were UN staff and one woman—were pardoned out of the “loving kindness” of the government, said the official website, according to a story by Radio Free Asia (RFA) on Wednesday.

The clashes between Muslim Rohingyas and Buddhist Rakhines up to 88 people dead, thousands of homes burned and tens of thousands of people displaced.

The UN confirmed on Tuesday that two of their staff had been released, saying a third remained in detention, but gave no further details.

“We welcome the release and we hope that the one person remaining in detention will be released," UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York.

RFA said Maung Khin Shwe was sentenced to two years for his involvement in unrest in Maungdaw and for defaming the state while Maung Khin Maung was sentenced to three years for similar reasons as well as for illegal possession of foreign currency, according to the president’s website.

Cho Lay Mar, an employee of the UNHCR-affiliated Community Social Services Education Project, was ordered jailed for six years for instigating unrest, involvement in arson attacks and illegal possession of foreign currency, it said.

They were pardoned “in order for them to understand the loving kindness of the state and to be able to do their duty together with the people for their benefit and for that of the region and the country,” said RFA.

Relatives of the two brothers said they were innocent and had been denied attorneys and family members had not been allowed to attend the trial.

The three pardoned aid workers are among at least 12 local staff that humanitarian groups say were detained by the government in June for suspected involvement in the unrest.  Aside from the two the U.N. said were freed, six others have been released so far.

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