Burmese Officials Visit Abused Karen Girl

By Nyein Nyein 15 February 2013

Burmese labor officials visited a children’s shelter in Thailand’s Kamphaeng Phet Province on Friday to meet an ethnic Karen girl who has been staying there since she escaped from a Thai couple two weeks ago.

The 12-year-old girl, whose case has attracted intense attention since it was revealed by Thai media earlier this week, told Thai authorities that the couple abducted her five years ago and forced her to work as their servant.

Despite being covered with scars caused by repeated scalding—the result, she said, of hot water being poured over her body as punishment for disobedience—the girl is in good health, according to Naing Htun, a labor official who previously worked at the Burmese embassy in Bangkok.

“I met with Mr Thanawat Sathit, the director of the Home for Children and Families, and saw that they have given her case much attention, such as raising funds for her medical expenses and reporting on her condition every day,” Naing Htun told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

He added that the girl has been reunited with her family and also appears to be recovering from the psychological trauma of being tortured and held against her will for almost half her life.

“We told them that we will provide all necessary support,” said Naing Htun, who added that he had been directed to intervene in the case by the President’s Office.

According to Maung Maung Kyaw, an official at Burma’s Labor Ministry in Naypyidaw, Naing Htun handed over 20,000 baht (US $670) for the care of the girl. He added that the Burmese government would also assist in efforts to prosecute the couple.

The couple, Nathee Taeng-orn, 35, and Rattanakorn Piyavoratharm, 33, face at least 20 years in prison for trafficking, child torture, child labor and illegal detention. They have both been released on bail.

The girl, whose identity has not been revealed, is expected to appear in court next Monday, after which she will begin treatment for her injuries. She will require extensive plastic surgery to separate her left arm from the left side of her chest, which grew attached after her skin melted away, and long-term care to repair severely damaged nerve tissue.

So far, a total of around 100,000 baht ($3,350) has been raised to help the girl, much of it coming from Burmese migrant workers in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand. The Thai government has been covering most of her medical costs.

Naing Htun said that the Burmese government would help her family, who are from Hlaing Bwe Township in Karen State, obtain a certificate of identity for the girl.

According to Burmese government figures, around 1.25 million migrant workers from Burma have been issued temporary passports to work in Thailand. However, it is believed that there are at least another million who live in the country without documentation.