UN aid workers detained in Myanmar

July 7th, 2012 - 12:03 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 6 (IANS) About 10 aid workers, some of them from the UN, are being held by authorities in western Myanmar where sectarian clashes killed scores of people last month, CNN reported Friday.

The authorities in Rakhine state have detained the workers for “questioning”, the UN Information Center Yangon said in a report published on its website.

The UN said it was waiting for a formal reply from the government after requesting information on the situation.

Out of concern for the workers’ privacy, the UN said it was not releasing any personal or professional information about them.

The incident comes at a time when Myanmar has released hundreds of political prisoners, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and instituted a series of political reforms after decades of military rule. Western governments have responded to the efforts by easing sanctions on the country.

Violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine flared up after police detained three Muslims following the rape and killing of a Buddhist woman in May.

CNN said news of the crime appeared to have motivated several hundred people to attack a bus in Rakhine in June, killing 10 Muslims.

Clashes spread across the northern part of the state, resulting in the destruction of thousands of homes and deaths of at least 62 people, the government said.

The government declared a state of emergency in Rakhine, bringing in the military to help restore order.

Reports of further attacks in Rakhine have “substantially decreased” in the past couple of weeks, the UN report said Friday.

But tensions between the two communities remain high, it said, noting government estimates that 55,000 people have been displaced.

The strained relationship between Buddhists and Muslims is making humanitarian efforts more difficult, the UN said.

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