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At UN, Muted Support for UNDP Worker Arrested in Myanmar, "Unacceptable," Staff Says

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, October 3 -- The UN worker swept up and arrested by the Burmese government, like many of her compatriots, has still not been released. Sources in Yangon indicate that the arrestee is Ms. Myint Ngwe Mon; a person by that name is listed in UNDP records, as a "Program Assistant" at the "G5" level. According to Reuters, an unidentified "UNDP spokeswoman" also gave out this name, despite UNDP's earlier position of not giving out names. Click here for Inner City Press' previously story. At Wednesday's UN noon briefing in New York, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: Reports are in from Myanmar that some UN staff members have been taken, you know, swept up by the Government.  So, I guess I'm wondering what is the UN system going to do about that?

Spokesperson:  Well, we can confirm that a UNDP staff member was arrested early this morning in Yangon.  In the early morning hours, authorities conducted a sweep of houses, apartments, in the Shwedagon Pagoda area, where the major protests occurred, and in this round-up, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) staff member, her husband and brother-in-law, as well as her personal driver, were arrested.  This is the information that we have.  We are following up on the issue and we are trying to secure her release.  UNDP will be sending a letter to the Permanent Mission of the Union of Myanmar to the United Nations today to intercede for her release.  This is all we have so far on the issue.

            The reference to "her personal driver" struck some as strange; others questioned whether UNDP in Myanmar accepts staff from the government, and if UNDP's "national staff" in fact have UNDP contracts.

2007 Summit on Safety of UN Personnel: Burma response not shown

 Wednesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon himself was asked:

Q: A UN worker has been arrested, we heard, a UNDP worker. What are your thoughts about that? Are you going to intervene personally yourself to try to free her?

SG: I am going to do whatever I can to, first of all, address this issue, the overall human rights situation in Myanmar. That is again one of the top concerns of the international community.

            First out of the box, at least with a press release clearly calling for her release, was the UN (Secretariat) Staff Union, specifically its Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service, which late Wednesday stated:

"numerous General Assembly resolutions (e.g. A/RES/61/133) call upon all States to provide adequate and prompt information in the events of an arrest or detention... detained staff must not be held without charge."

      We'll see -- watch this site.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540