U.N. seeks details on employees sentenced in Myanmar

UNITED NATIONS Mon Aug 27, 2012 8:29pm EDT

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations is seeking information on three people working for the world body who were sentenced by a Myanmar court in connection with sectarian violence there earlier this year, a U.N. spokesman said on Monday.

"The country team in Yangon has received information that a court in Maungdaw has sentenced three people - one from the U.N. refugee agency, one from the World Food Program and a third person who works for a partner organization of the refugee agency," spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters.

"At the moment, we don't have any formal information from the authorities, although we have asked for that," he said.

The three convictions, Nesirky added, appeared to be in connection with the violence in June in the Rakhine state in the country formerly known as Burma.

"We have consistently said that formal and precise charges would need to be provided to us before any action is taken by the Myanmar authorities," he said.

"The detained staff should be treated in accordance with all the applicable international conventions and immunities that they may be entitled to," Nesirky added.

He had no further details about the convictions.

Police in Myanmar arrested 30 people last month in connection with the vigilante killing of 10 Muslims that helped spark days of sectarian violence in Rakhine state in which at least 80 people were killed and tens of thousands were displaced.

The riots and killings underline the big challenges facing Myanmar's first civilian government since the end of five decades of authoritarian military rule.

The 16-month-old administration says it wants to forge peace and unity among the many ethnic groups and religions in Myanmar. Northwestern Rakhine state in particular is fraught with long-standing communal tension.

The riots and killings underlined the big challenges facing Myanmar's first civilian government since the end of five decades of authoritarian military rule.

(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau; editing by Philip Barbara)

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