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A high-profile lawyer in Burma arrested last week after police in Rangoon dispersed a farmers’ protest claims he was drugged whilst under interrogation by intelligence officials.
Pho Phyu is accused of leading around 60 landless farmers during a rare demonstration in Rangoon on 27 October. He spoke to DVB yesterday after being released from detention pending 11 November court trial where he will face charges of taking part in an unlawful gathering.
“I was put in a blindfold with holes for breathing and was given water that had an odour and a taste – naturally water doesn’t have an odour or taste,” he said. “The effect wasn’t noticeable right after drinking it, but after a minute or two my heart began racing and I started to feel nauseous and very exhausted and depressed.”
He claims the interrogation lasted around 12 hours after which he was sent to a police station in Botahtaung township, where says he was treated well.
Prior to his release in February last year, Pho Phyu had spent nearly a year in prison after helping farmers in Magwe division file a complaint over land confiscation to the International Labour Organisation.
The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission released a statement today demanding that Burma implement a new land law to override the current one that it claims “is ineffectual in protecting the rights of cultivators”.
“With the rise and rise of private businesses linked to serving and former army officers and bureaucrats, the incidence of land grabbing also is fast increasing, and is bound to increase even more dramatically in the next few years,” it warned.
A draft bill on land rights was submitted to parliament in September, but has received heavy criticism. The AHRC said it was “precisely the opposite of what the country needs.
“Rather than protecting cultivators’ rights, it undercuts them at practically every point, through a variety of provisions aimed at enabling rather than inhibiting land grabbing.” It continued that the bill would enshrine into law the legal eviction of farmers for whatever the government decides are reasons that are “in the national interest”.