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Lawyer in ILO case harassed by authorities

Jan 8, 2009 (DVB), Lawyer Pho Phyu, who is well known for representing political activists, has complained of being harassed by local authorities when he went to Nat Mauk township to attend a court hearing.

The case involved farmers who were arrested after reporting land confiscation by the military to the International Labour Organisation.

Pho Phyu said he was denied guest registration on arrival in the Magwe town on 1 January and was pressured by authorities when he tried to check into a guest house.

Later that evening, while he was waiting for a bus to go back to Rangoon, a group of local government officials led by Magwe police station 1 chief Kyu Aye apprehended Pho Phyu.

They took him to the local Ward Peace and Development Council office and questioned him while they went through his belongings and case files.

"I was waiting for a bus and at around 11.30pm, Kyu Aye and some police officers arrived on motorbikes. They said they had suspicions about me and took me to the WPDC office," Pho Phyu said.

"When we got to the office, they started looking in my bags claiming I might be carrying explosives," he said.

"I told Kyu Aye that they needed proper paperwork to search my belongings and also that they didn’t have the authority to look at my case files as they contain information that is between me and my clients.

"He said he didn’t care and told me he could sue me for disturbing a government official on duty."

He said Kyu Aye had also taken a report he was preparing entitled ‘The struggle for human rights in [Burmese] courts’, a compilation of testimonials from his clients.

"The report included information about cases relating to the ILO, mainly cases of land confiscation and forced labour," Pho Phyu said.

"They took away the documents under a search warrant and forced me to sign it," he said.

"I explained to him that I had the right to freely consider my cases and legal procedures, but he just said it didn’t matter as it was more important for them to be able to take me to court."

Pho Phyu was in Nat Mauk to attend court hearing for his clients Hla Soe of Nat Mauk and Zaw Htay from Aung Lan.

The two men were arrested by authorities on 29 October last year after they filed a report on the confiscation of land from local farmers by the army.

"They did this to me intentionally to disrupt my clients' court hearing, making it impossible for me to be present or call witnesses," Pho Phyu said.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

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