Skip to main content

Myanmar court sentences 3 aid workers to prison, U.N. says

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 6:14 AM EDT, Mon August 27, 2012
  • The U.N. has been denied access to the detained workers
  • They have been sentenced to prison by a court in Rakhine State
  • Scores of people died in clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine in June
  • About 10 aid workers were detained amid the unrest, some of them have been freed

Hong Kong (CNN) -- A court in Myanmar has handed down prison sentences to three aid workers, including two U.N. employees, who were detained amid sectarian clashes that killed scores of people in the west of the Southeast Asian nation, a U.N. spokesman said Monday.

The court in the town of Maungdaw in Rakhine State sentenced the three aid workers -- one from the U.N. refugee agency, one from the U.N. World Food Program and one from a nongovernmental organization affiliated with the refugee agency -- on Friday, said Aye Win, the spokesman for the United Nations in Myanmar.

He said he was not able to provide details on the length of the prison sentences or the charges the workers were convicted of because the United Nations didn't have access to the court room.

The world body has requested access to the detained workers and clarification of their situation from the Myanmar authorities, he said. It has so far been unable to meet with them since they were taken into custody.

Religious clashes devastate Myanmar
Sectarian violence testing Myanmar

The United Nations said in July that about 10 aid workers had been detained for "questioning" by the authorities in Rakhine, where violent clashes between Buddhists and Muslims caused havoc in June. The detained workers included employees of the United Nations and the aid group Doctors Without Borders.

Some of those being held were released, the United Nations said last week. But it noted that some workers remained in detention.

The communal violence in Rakhine resulted in the destruction of hundreds of homes and the displacement of tens of thousands of people, many of them members of the Rohingya, a stateless ethnic Muslim minority.

Rakhine is home for the Rohingya, who say they have been persecuted by the Myanmar military during its decades of authoritarian rule.

Many of them have fled into neighboring Bangladesh over the years. But the Bangladeshi government tried to prevent fleeing Rohingya from crossing the border from Myanmar during the recent outbreak of violence, saying it already had too many to deal with.

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

Human rights advocates have accused the Myanmar authorities of cracking down particularly harshly on the Rohingya in the response to the unrest.

Aye Win of the United Nations declined on Monday to disclose the identities of the U.N. workers sentenced in Rakhine on Friday.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.