Police file charges amid outcry in child maids case
After two teen girls suffered years of abuse at the hands of a Yangon tailor, police finally intervened when news of a compensation scheme ignited backlash on social media.
SWIFT backlash against a compensation scheme brokered by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission in the case of three girls tortured for years as housemaids in Yangon’s Kyauktada township has prompted police to pursue legal action against the accused.
Police Captain Myo Thein from the Yangon Region anti-human trafficking unit told The Myanmar Times yesterday that his unit had been alerted to the case via social media, after local news outlet Myanmar Now first reported on it. An investigation has been opened under anti-human trafficking legislation, he added.
Myanmar Now, whose chief correspondent U Swe Win said he had filed a report on the abuse with Kyauktada township police months ago but saw no action taken, initially reported that there were two victims of the abuse, Ma San Kay Khaing, 17, and Ma Thazin, 16. The girls originally hailed from Bawlonekwin village in Kawhmu township and had endured years of physical violence and psychological abuse before eventually fleeing their bondage at the Ava tailoring shop on 40th Street and returning to their parents.
But the Yangon Police Force’s Facebook page yesterday said three girls had been victims, including 18-yearold Tin Tin Khaing, also from Bawlonekwin. Its Facebook page named Daw Tin Thuzar and Ma Su Mon Latt, a mother and daughter, as defendants in the case, saying they would face charges on two counts of the AntiHuman Trafficking Law.
According to the Yangon Region anti-human trafficking unit, the three girls have already been questioned regarding their experiences. Their physical injuries ranged from broken knuckles to flesh wounds inflicted with knives and scissors. Police are awaiting the results of a full medical report to complete their case file.
“The owners will be jailed at least 10 or 20 years under the Anti-Human Trafficking Law,” said Pol Capt Myo Thein.
The mother and daughter’s whereabouts were not immediately clear, but Daw Tin Thuzar’s son was called into the Kyauktada Township Police Station yesterday evening for questioning.
The alleged abusers had compensated the families of the girls a combined K5 million (US$4065) on September 15, at the arrangement of the MNHRC.
But human rights groups, lawyers and international organisations quickly condemned the commission’s handling of the case once word got out this week.
U Myint Aye, executive director of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters, said yesterday that police must take action against the accused despite the MNHRC’s attempt to settle the case monetarily.
‘The owners will be jailed at least 10 or 20 years under the Anti-Human Trafficking Law.’ Police Captain Myo Thein Yangon anti-human trafficking unit
“No one should be subjected to torture by anyone. Torture is something that we have to be against. Police can’t torture, the household’s family can’t torture their home maids and a boss can’t torture his/her workers,” he said.
Lawyer U Robert Sann Aung criticised police for not taking proper action after the case was initially brought to their attention.
“Let’s say, if someone dies in a place distant from his/her hometown: Will the police not take action because they worry that the family of the victim will have difficulties in travelling to come to that place?” he said, adding, “We need to fight for justice in our country.”
Aaron Greenberg, chief of child protection for UNICEF Myanmar, said that no child should be subjected to the consequences of physical, sexual and psychological violence.
“The current cases that have attracted public attention highlight the urgent need to prevent violence against children, ensure safe reporting mechanisms are in place, and strengthen response and accountability measures,” he said.
The 7Days daily newspaper quoted MNHRC member U Zaw Win as saying the commission had done its best to handle the situation by practicing metta, or loving kindness.
Since its formation in 2011, the MNHRC has faced sustained criticism for failing to more vigorously protect and promote human rights in the country. Despite its reputation, MNHRC chair U Win Mra was named last month to the nine-member Rakhine State Advisory Commission, which has been tasked with recommending solutions to ease interreligious tensions, poverty and mass displacement of stateless Rohingya Muslims in the troubled western state.
The MNHRC will hold a press conference today in Yangon to address the compensation scheme it promoted as a means of resolving the abuse case.
Left: A trishaw drives past the Ava tailoring shop on 40th Street in Yangon’s Kyauktada township yesterday. Right: Domestic abuse victim Ma San Kay Khaing, 17, shows her scarred arms and twisted fingers while recovering in her family’s village of Bawlonekwin, Kawhmu township, yesterday.