The United Nations is temporarily relocating some of its staff members in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where a spate of violence has left at least 17 people dead.
The relocation is on a voluntary basis and covers nonessential local and international staff of U.N. agencies, affiliated organizations and their families, BBC reports, citing a U.N. statement. It was announced after Myanmar President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in Rakhine on Sunday (June 10).
The state of emergency was imposed in response to heightened ethnic and religious conflict between Buddhist and Muslim groups in the province, which is located in western Myanmar near the country’s border with Bangladesh. Tensions here flared after a June 4 attack on a bus carrying Muslim passengers. The attack was reportedly fueled by anger among Buddhist groups over the murder and rape of a Buddhist woman last month.
The decision to relocate U.N. staff members was made for safety reasons as reports from news agencies and U.N. employees suggest the unrest is making it hard for aid workers to continue operating in Rakhine, said Ashok Nigam, the U.N. humanitarian and resident coordinator in Yangon, according to CNN.
U.N. staff members who have opted for relocation are being moved to Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon. The United Nations said it has requested “full government support for the safety and security” of U.N. and international nongovernmental organization employees while they are being moved out of Rakhine.
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