MNHRC de­fends ‘res­o­lu­tion’ of child maid case

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page -

Amid an out­pour­ing of pub­lic crit­i­cism over its han­dling of a case in­volv­ing abused chil­dren, the Myan­mar Na­tional Hu­man Rights Commission said it was will­ing to take the stand in de­fence of its work ne­go­ti­at­ing a fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment.

THE ar­rest yes­ter­day of sus­pects in­volved in the pro­tracted abuse of child maids was ap­par­ently not enough to per­suade the Myan­mar Na­tional Hu­man Rights Commission it had failed to ob­tain jus­tice af­ter wash­ing its hands of the case fol­low­ing fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment.

Speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day, the MNHRC de­fended what it termed a suc­cess­ful res­o­lu­tion of the com­plaint, and said they would be ready to take the stand should any dis­sat­is­fied party seek le­gal re­course.

Yet it was pub­lic outcry, and not the MNHRC nor a law­suit filed at a po­lice sta­tion, that fi­nally re­sulted in le­gal ac­tion. Three months af­ter the ini­tial re­port­ing of the case, fam­ily mem­bers from Ava Tai­lor­ing in down­town Yan­gon were ar­rested in con­nec­tion to the long-term phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse of teenage girls, ac­cord­ing to the Kyauk­tada town­ship po­lice.

Daw Tin Thuzar was ar­rested late on the evening of Septem­ber 20. Her son, Ko Tin Minn Latt, was called into the po­lice sta­tion ear­lier on the same day, but was not ar­rested un­til yes­ter­day morn­ing, when his sis­ter, Ma Su Mon Latt, was also ap­pre­hended. All three face charges un­der the Anti-Hu­man Traf­fick­ing Law.

The fam­ily is be­lieved to be re­spon­si­ble for tor­tur­ing two girls, Ma San Kay Khaing, 17, and Ma Thazin, 16. The girls bear the phys­i­cal wounds of burn­ings and stab­bings, and told po­lice they were kept en­slaved against their will for five years at the tai­lor­ing shop on 40th Street. A third vic­tim, Ma Tin Tin Khaing, also re­port­edly en­dured abuse, ac­cord­ing to the Yan­gon Po­lice Face­book page.

The case was first re­ported in June by Myan­mar Now chief cor­re­spon­dent Ko Swe Win, who said he filed a case with the Kyauk­tada town­ship po­lice. When no ac­tion was taken in re­sponse to the re­port of tor­ture, Ko Swe Win took the case to the Myan­mar Na­tional Hu­man Rights Coun­cil (MNHRC).

The MNHRC has been ac­cused of pres­sur­ing the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies to ac­cept set­tle­ment through fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion for un­paid wages. The al­leged abusers paid the girls a com­bined K5 mil­lion (US$4065) on Septem­ber 15, at the ar­range­ment of the MNHRC, which then closed the case.

And per­haps it would have ended there were it not for the swift outcry of in­jus­tice cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia. Hu­man rights groups, lawyers, in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions and mem­bers of the pub­lic quickly con­demned the commission.

“Both sides [the abusers from Ava Tai­lor­ing shop and the vic­tims, teenage girls from Kawhmu town­ship] are sat­is­fied with the re­sult. So whether oth­ers deem this con­di­tion right or wrong has noth­ing to do with us,” said U Zaw Win, a commission mem­ber.

An­other com­mis­sioner, Daw Than Nwe, told the press that the vic­tims had asked for com­pen­sa­tion, and so that was what the MNHRC fo­cused on.

“We didn’t re­strict them from go­ing through the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem,” she said. “There is noth­ing in the com­pen­sa­tion agree­ment that bars them from fil­ing a law­suit. All we did was help them to re­ceive the fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion they likely never would have seen had they pur­sued crim­i­nal charges.”

A let­ter de­mand­ing the com­mis­sion­ers’ im­me­di­ate res­ig­na­tion was passed around by ac­tivists at the press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day.

An on­line pe­ti­tion called “Jus­tice for the Do­mes­tic Helpers” was also launched. The change.org cam­paign calls for ef­fec­tive le­gal ac­tion against the own­ers of Ava Tai­lor­ing, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the MNHRC and the po­lice who were in­volved in the ne­go­ti­a­tion process, and trans­parency as the case goes through the le­gal sys­tem.

Yan­gon res­i­dents, lawyers and mem­bers of civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions yes­ter­day pep­pered the MNHRC with de­mands about why the case was not han­dled more ac­count­ably, through the rel­e­vant le­gal chan­nels, and why le­gal ad­vice was not sought.

“The commission is sup­posed to ad­vo­cate on be­half of those who have their hu­man rights vi­o­lated. But what they did in­stead was cur­tail jus­tice by ne­go­ti­at­ing with the vi­o­la­tors,” said ac­tivist Ko Thet Swe Win.

In re­sponse to crit­i­cism over the po­lice in­ac­tion fol­low­ing the ini­tial re­port­ing of the case, a po­lice tri­bunal headed by Pabe­dan town­ship of­fi­cer U Khin Maung Htwe was es­tab­lished yes­ter­day. The tri­bunal has been tasked with de­ter­min­ing what ac­tions, if any, were taken in re­sponse to Ko Swe Win’s com­plaint filed in June.

“We are still in­ves­ti­gat­ing who was in­volved in han­dling the law­suit filed by Ko Swe Win. Noth­ing has been con­firmed yet,” said U Khin Maung Htwe.

PHOTO: AUNG KHANT

Photo: Aung Khant

Mem­bers of the Myan­mar Na­tional Hu­man Rights Comis­sion yes­ter­day de­fended their work help­ing set­tle a case in­volv­ing abused child maids.

SHOON NAING

YE MON

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