Myanmar widow jailed for physical abuse on servant

(FILES) This file photo taken on February 13, 2017 shows 14-year-old Khin Khin Tun displaying deep scars on her arms and neck in Mawlamyine, some 300 km southeast of Yangon. Khin Khin Tun’s back is a patchwork of burns, searing memories she says from when her former employer poured two flasks of boiling water over her flesh — one for each orange she was accused of stealing. –
/ AFP / Ye Aung THU

YANGON: A Myanmar widow who threw boiling water on a 14-year-old servant leaving her with horrific burns has been jailed for seven years, a rare flicker of justice for the country’s legion of child domestic workers. Aye Aye Soe was arrested late last year for pouring two flasks of boiling water on the girl-one for each orange she was accused of stealing. The attack left her victim, Khin Khin Tun, with severe burns across her back.

The widow was also accused of routine physical abuse of Khin Khin Tun’s younger sister, who also worked for her. The sisters were among tens of thousands of youngsters who support their families through domestic work for the growing urban elite in Myanmar’s booming cities. But invisible and without any legal protection, they are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

On Thursday a judge in Mawlamyine township, a few hours south of Yangon, jailed Aye Aye Soe for seven years on charges including grievous bodily harm, the victim’s lawyer said. “The judgment was suitable and fair under the powers of the court,” lawyer Yin Min San said, explaining tougher child abuse and trafficking charges were not brought limiting the judge’s sentencing powers.

In February this year AFP reporters visited Khin Khin Tun who showed the extensive burns to her body, explaining she was abused over three years as a virtual slave for Aye Aye Soe. The sisters were frequently accused of stealing, beaten with burning wood and forced to hit each other until they bled. The sentence was met with anger from the local activist who uncovered the abuse. “The victims are still afraid,” Thi Thi Nwe from the Myitta Sone Zee rights group in Mawlamyine said.

“Our concern is that the defendant will be free within the next six years and she could make trouble for the victims again… the defendant is powerful here.” The issue of abuse of child servants came to light last year when two teenage domestic helpers were freed from a tailor shop in Yangon, where they said they spent five years being beaten, stabbed and deprived of sleep and food. Critics say Myanmar’s legal system is slow and easily bent by powerful interests and cash-leaving poor children unable to access justice. – AFP

This article was published on 19/05/2017