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Farmers detained for reporting army abuses to ILO

Nov 04, 2008 (DVB)-Three farmers who reported the seizure of their farms to the International Labour Organisation’s office in Rangoon had been detained by the army, according to a local farmer.

U Hla Soe, U Sein Steen and U Nay Lin from Natmauk township’s Myetyehkan village in Magwe Division, were arrested on the night of 20 October by a team of police on the order of the army â€" along with 43-year old Ko Zaw Htay from nearby Aunglan who helped them report their grievances to the ILO.

They have all been detained at Natmauk police station.

Fifty farmers from Myetyehkan, Kyaungywalay, Ywathit, Nyaung Pauk villages reported the ILO that more than five thousand acres of their farmland were seized by the army and that the soldiers had been extorting money from them.

"We have to pay 30,000 kyat a year for an acre of land. It is not easy to make 30,000 kyat profit a year however fertile the land is," a farmer said.

"We are not allowed to visit our farms to pick our maturing vegetables â€" by the order of the army, they say. And we are not allowed to grow our sunflowers for this season," he added.

"We can only survive when we are allowed to work on our farms. Now we are not even allowed to go to town and they are threatening to report us and arrest us if we did."

Preparations are being made by the authorities to charge the farmers and Ko Zaw Htay under Official Secret Act for leaking State secrets.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

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