It is not clear what prompted President Thein Sein to pardon the three aid workers sentenced to prison in Myanmar Friday (Aug. 24) — other than a sweeping statement that says it is out of “the loving kindness and generosity of the state.”
The aid workers were among the 12 detained in Rakhine state since June, when violence erupted between Rohingya Muslims and the Buddhist majority. Six of them were released prior to the presidential pardon Tuesday (Aug. 28).
Two of the six released aid workers are local staff members of the United Nations: one from the U.N. World Food Program and another from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. The remaining four are from Médecins Sans Frontières.
The three sentenced aid workers — including one who works for the Community Social Services Education Project charity, a nongovernmental organization supported by UNHCR — are now out of jail, U.N. National Information Officer in Myanmar Aye Win confirmed to Devex. But Aye Win declined to disclose information on the aid workers’ whereabouts “for their safety and security.”
The three aid workers were sentenced to two to six years in prison at a courtroom in Maundaw, Rakhine. They were charged with arson and inciting unrest between the two warring parties, information not formally provided to the United Nations.
Aye Win is not aware of any conditions attached to the pardon. “All we know is that [the pardon] appeared on the President’s website yesterday evening,” he said.
Two MSF staff members remain in detention as of Aug. 23. It is not known if they have already been released. Vivian Tan, UNHCR senior regional public information officer in Bangkok, meanwhile, told Devex one UNHCR staff member remains under government custody.
Read more development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.