Friday, August 17, 2012

Five detained NGO aid workers released in Rakhine State

Friday, 17 August 2012 12:09 Mizzima News

Five detained local NGO staff members of an international aid organization were freed on Thursday in Rakhine State in Burma, while others still remain 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 a prison in Sittwe Prison on Thursday, August 16, 2012. Burmese Minister Khin Yi said that 10 workers with international NGOs were arrested in connection with Rakhine-Rohingya violence. Photo: Mizzima

Local authorities in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, released Doctors Without Borders employees Kyaw Hla Aung and Win Naing. They have been charged with inciting unrest. Authorities are believed to hold up to 10 other NGO aid workers detained during the community unrest.

“I was charged with Article 505 [of Burma’s Penal Code] for inciting unrest, while Win Naing was charged with instigating conflict by showing people photos of violence in Taungoke Township,” Kyaw Hla Aung, 73, administrator for the organization’s Rakhine branch, said shortly after his release, according to an article on the Radio Free Asia website on Thursday.

Three other aid workers held in Buthidaung Township were released on Wednesday, the article said. No details surrounding those workers were provided by the authorities.

UN officials have said that a dozen aid workers, including several UN staff members as well as World Food Programme and Doctors Without Borders employees, were detained during the Rakhine unrest. Border Affairs Minister Lt. Gen. Thein Htay has said some of the aid workers were accused of “setting fire to villages” and taking part in the clashes.

Before his arrest, Kyaw Hla Aung said he was accused of being linked to an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group and his home was raided by an unknown group searching for evidence against him.

“An hour or two before I was arrested, my home was raided. I don’t know by whom. All my papers and documents were scattered outside my house,” he was quoted as saying.  “They said I had links to Al Qaeda,” he said, referring to the global terror network that masterminded the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S.

International groups have repeatedly asked for details of the arrested NGO local staff and called for their release.

Meanwhile, local authorities in Rakhine have eased curfews in in Kyauktaw Township.

In Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships, which saw the brunt of the violence in June, the curfew has been reduced by one hour, while in other townships such as Minbya and Mrauk Oo that were only recently put under curfew, the lockdown has been cut by five hours, according to exiled media reports.

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