Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Burma sentences two UN staffers to prison

Tuesday, 28 August 2012 12:36 Mizzima News

Two UN local workers in Burma have been sentenced to prison after being charged with crimes during the community unrest in Rakhine State.

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A court in Maungdaw on Friday sentenced Maung Khin Maung, who worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to three years in jail and his brother Maung Khin Shwe, who worked with the World Food Program (WFP), to two years imprisonment, according to an article on the Radio Free Asia (RFA) website on Monday.

A third unidentified staffer for an organization paired with the UN is believed to have been sentenced to six years in prison for arson, said the RFA.

Aye Win, the UN spokesperson in Rangoon, said the UN was not informed of the trial in advance and the accused were refused lawyers, according to a report by Voice of America (VOA) on Monday.

He said the UN asked for access and “we’ve asked for clarification on the sentences.”

Hla Thein, chairman of the government’s Rakhine Riot Information Committee, denied the three men were refused lawyers.

He told the VOA Burmese Service one UN staff member was found guilty of arson and given six years in prison. Others were found guilty of inciting violence and promoting hatred between Buddhists and Muslims and were given between two and three years. All three were found guilty of having illegal amounts of foreign currency, he said, and all of them worked for the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR.

Relatives said the brothers’ attorneys were denied access to the men during their trial.

The UN welcomed the release of two other UN staffers last week, but it called on the government to release the rest of the organization’s workers.

Burma media reports say authorities last week released two people working for the UN and four working for Doctors Without Borders.

Humanitarian groups say that at least 12 local staff employed by international aid groups were detained by the government in June for suspected involvement in the unrest. Six have so far been released.

UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky in New York said, “The UN has consistently held that formal and precise charges would need to be provided to us before action is taken by the Myanmar authorities.”

“We would like to indicate that the detained staff should be treated in accordance with all the applicable international conventions and immunities they may be entitled to,” he said.

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