Thursday, August 9, 2012

UN appeals to Bangladesh to allow aid groups to resume work

Thursday, 09 August 2012 14:45 Mizzima News

The UN Refugee Agency has called on Bangladesh to allow provision of humanitarian assistance to refugees that have entered its territory, a UN spokesman told reporters in New York on Tuesday.

“The UN Refugee Agency is appealing to the government of Bangladesh to ensure that assistance from non-governmental organizations continues to be provided to some 40,000 unregistered people who have fled Myanmar's Rakhine State,” said Martin Nesirky, a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, at a daily briefing.

Last week, Bangladeshi authorities ordered three non- governmental organizations to stop their activities in and around unofficial refugee camps in southeast Bangladesh.

Nesirky said that the UN Refugee Agency is watching closely developments in Burma’s northern Rakhine State, following reports of renewed violence over the weekend.

According to the spokesman, the UN and its humanitarian partners have drawn up a response plan to assist some 80,000 people who have been displaced or are otherwise affected in Rakhine State since inter-communal clashes broke out in early June.

“For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) says that its food aid was distributed to nearly 103,000 people in June and 80, 000 people in July in Rakhine State,” Nesirky said.

Meanwhile, six UN employees are still in detention after they were arrested by Burmese security forces in Rakhine State during the unrest in June.

UN special envoy to Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, interviewed the six UN staff members in Insein and Buthidaung prisons, who have been detained in connection with the events in Rakhine State, adding that he had also received information that a number of staff of international non-governmental organizations had been similarly detained. The others detained work for the World Food Program and Doctors Without Borders, say human rights groups.

“Based on my interviews, I have serious concerns about the treatment of these individuals during detention,” he said, adding that he believed the charges against them are “unfounded” and that their due process rights have been denied.

Clashes between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine State reportedly killed at least 78 people and displaced thousands since the unrest erupted in June.

Burmese authorities claimed last week that three of the UNHCR local employees detained during the unrest were somehow involved in the riots. Earlier, a government spokesperson claimed some took part in the burning of structures.

“The government has sound evidence that the three UN employees were involved in the Rakhine riots,” said Thein Htay, the border affairs minister, in the first official explanation of the arrests.

The UN continues to call for detailed information about the employees and why they are being held.

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