Singapore

Maid alleges abuse by fellow Myanmar employers

There are more than 200,000 maids working here. Most have employers who look out for them. But there are those who are subjected to horrendous physical and emotional abuse. We speak to two maids and detail their contrasting fortunes

She arrived in Singapore ready to work so that her family in Myanmar could have a better life.

Unable to speak English, domestic worker Ei Phyu Tun, 23, was excited to hear that her employers, who had a six-month-old baby, were also Myanmar nationals.

It was the perfect home away from home.

Or so she thought.

Miss Tun, who started working for her employers in April this year, says the first two months were not bad.

But the relationship changed quickly.

"In late June, madam started beating me," Miss Tun claims in an interview with The New Paper on Sunday (TNPS) through a translator.

These pictures show injuries Miss Ei Phyu Tun say come from beatings from her employer. PHOTOS COURTESY OF MISS EI PHYU TUN

The interview was facilitated by the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (Home) at its office in Lucky Plaza on Friday.

"The first time madam hit me was after she scolded me about washing the baby's milk bottle," she says.

"She insisted that I didn't wash it even after I explained that I had. As I tried to explain further, she accused me of talking back to her.

"That was the first time she slapped me across the face."

Miss Tun adds that "for a month and the half, madam used her hand to hit me".

That, however, was only the beginning. She claims the physical abuse escalated quickly.

She alleged her employer used a metal hanger and subsequently, a metal rod on her.

Miss Tun never told her employer to stop because, she says, it would set her up for "harsher consequences".

"The first time she hit me, it was so painful that I cried. When she saw me crying, she lashed out and hit me even more," she says.

"After it happened a few times, madam's mother would try and stop madam from hitting me. But whenever she intervened, madam would hit me even more.

"Eventually, madam's mother also stopped intervening so that I wouldn't suffer extra."

On Sept 21, Miss Tun saw the best opportunity to escape the anguish.

"I saw madam's mum looking after the baby while madam was in her room. I took my things as fast as I could and ran away.

"I bumped into a resident of the block downstairs, and I asked her for help. When she saw the bruises on my body, she gave me $26 and told me to take a taxi to MOM (Ministry of Manpower) immediately," Miss Tun recounts.

"After that, MOM made a police report, and I was later handed over to the Myanmar embassy," she says.

When the police report was made, Miss Tun says they took her statement and photos of her injuries.

A Home officer says that the Myanmar embassy asked if Home could shelter Miss Tun in the meantime.

Miss Tun has to remain in Singapore until the investigations conclude. For now, she earns a small income by sewing Christmas decorations for Home.

Although the domestic worker is unsure of her next move after investigations close, she does not see herself working for a new employer after the trauma she suffered.

"I am sure there are better employers here in Singapore, but after what I went through, I am too scared to take the chance," she says.

"I just want to go home."


By the numbers

No. of maids issued work permits

222,500 ( 2014 )

214,500 ( 2013 )

209,600 ( 2012 )

No. of maid abuse cases in court

26 ( 2014 )

14 ( 2012 )

No. of cases in 
the past five years

90

No. of maid abuse reports

1,402  ( 2014 )

1,392  ( 2013 )

1,330  ( 2012 )

Majority of the complaints related to emotional abuse.

The Ministry of Manpower says it receives about 2,000 foreign domestic worker-related complaints a year, from employers, foreign domestic workers and the public. This is less than 1 per cent of the overall foreign domestic workers population and most of their complaints involve salary disputes and illegal deployment.

Source: Ministry of Manpower, State Courts, Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics

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