Twelve aid workers representing the United Nations and Doctors Without Borders (DWB) have been detained in Rakhine State during the past few weeks, the U.N. said in Geneva on Thursday. U.N. officials met with Burma’s foreign minister on Tuesday in Naypyitaw, the capital, to discuss the detentions.
On June 16, Reuters news agency reported that police in Buthidaung Township for unknown reasons detained three U.N. staff, two from the U.N. refugee agency and one from the World Food Programme. All are Burmese nationals.
On June 12, Doctors Without Borders announced it had suspended its operations in parts of Rakhine State, saying that its staff members where unsafe in the area.
Official Burmese government figures say 79 people were killed in the sectarian violence that racked the region starting in June, driving tens of thousands of refugees to seek safe shelter. International and domestic aid agencies rushed into the area to offer food, shelter and medicine as the violence continued.
Unconfirmed reports said that one United Nations employee had been released. The U.N. said it is not clear why the workers had been detained.
Mizzima reported last week that the World Food Programme (WFP) had expanded distributions of emergency food supplies to thousands of people displaced by the inter-communal violence.
WFP estimated that there were to 90,000 displaced people in need of assistance and said it is preparing plans for a three-month food assistance operation that will require additional support from donors. In recent days, reports say some refugees have begun returning home, but they have expressed fears for their safety.
On June 18, Doctors Without Borders announced it had been forced to suspend its operations in the area.
In Rakhine (Arakan) State, DWB has provided medical services for 20 years focusing on maternal health and infectious diseases such as malaria, diarrhea, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. In addition to meeting the immediate needs of the emergency, the return to a safe environment is needed to get MSF programmes back on track for longer-term health and well-being of people from all communities throughout the state, said the non-profit health service.