KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 25 — Several human rights groups have slammed the Perak government and authorities for their eviction against farmers and the arrest of four individuals who protested the move.

In a joint statement, Article 19 and Civicus said they are concerned by the arrests of three land rights defenders and a farmer for trying to block a forced eviction by the Perak government on October 24.

“The arbitrary arrests of the activists highlight the challenging environment for human rights defenders standing up for land rights and for local communities. Their arrest was purely to intimidate and create a chilling effect for those seeking to halt the forced eviction. The government must drop any investigations into their actions,” said Josef Benedict, the Asia Pacific researcher for Civicus.

On October 24, dozens of officials from the Perak Land and Minerals Office (PTG) were mobilised to forcibly evict the farmers with bulldozers and excavators.

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When the farmers, supported by activists from the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), tried to block them from entering the area, the police arrested four of them, including the PSM chairman Dr Michael Jeyakumar, Karthiges Manickam, and Kesavan Parvathy as well as farmer Ho Pon Tien.

The four were released around 8pm under police bail last night.

Another PSM activist, Chong Yee Shan, who has been working with the farmers to defend their land rights, was allegedly shoved by an officer from the Perak PTG when she tried to stop the eviction.

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The incident was captured on video. She suffered injuries to her nose and mouth, as well as wounds on her legs and hands and has required medical treatment.

“Our organisations condemn the ill-treatment against human rights defender Chong Yee Shan. Such actions by government officials must not be tolerated. The authorities must investigate the incident promptly and impartially and the perpetrator must be held to account,” said Nalini Elumalai, Article 19's senior Malaysia programme officer.

Article 19 is an international freedom of speech and expression watchdog, while Civicus is a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists.

Yesterday, Ipoh police chief ACP Yahaya Hassan said that a farmer and three activists from PSM were detained for obstructing public servants from carrying out their enforcement duties during a protest over farmers' eviction in Kanthan, Tambun.

Yahaya said they were arrested under Section 186 of the Penal Code for obstructing an operation carried out by the Perak PTG at the Silver Valley Technology Park project site here.