YANGON — Yangon’s western district court sentenced four family members who own the Ava Tailor Shop to 13 years and up for torturing two young domestic workers. Two other family members were acquitted.
The verdicts came after more than one year of testimony from both sides totaling some 20 witnesses since October 2016.
The case of the two abused teenagers was first reported by Myanmar Now editor Ko Swe Win. The girls were freed from the home of their abusers, and the family was arrested after a widespread public outcry.
In May, six family members were charged. Tin Thuzar, her daughter Su Mon Latt and son Tin Min Latt, and son-in-law Yar Zar Tun were charged under the Anti-trafficking in Persons Law, Penal Code 326 for voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons and means, and the 1993 Child Law.
Tin Thuzar and Su Mon Latt received 16 years and one month each, Yar Zar Tun was sentenced to 13 years and one month and Tin Min Latt received nine years and one month.
Father and husband U Ko Latt and daughter Thiri Latt were charged under the first two laws but they were acquitted as the court found no evidence tying them to the case.
Lawyer Daw Hnin Su Aung said she shared mixed feelings as her client, Thiri Latt, was freed but the others were sentenced with harsh punishments.
The district judge said the culprits could appeal at the regional court in regard to the Friday verdicts.
Daw Thandar, the mother of Yar Zar Tun, told The Irrawaddy that she would file an appeal to a higher court.
“My son is not guilty and I will appeal at higher courts as long as possible,” she said.
The two victims, Ma San Kay Khaing 17, and Ma Thazin, 18, had to undergo numerous operations for injuries sustained from years of torture, but they are recovering. The pair is from a village on the outskirts of Yangon. They had worked for the Ava Tailor Shop family since they were 10.
Prior to hearing the case, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission tried to intervene in the case by telling the victims’ families to accept monetary compensation. Due to public outrage, commission member U Zaw Win left his position.
The Ava case has highlighted widespread inhumane treatment of housemaids, especially those who are underage in Myanmar. The case drew public condemnation and set an example for others to report similar cases in the future.