RANGOON — A Rangoon court charged six family members on Thursday under eight legal statutes—some of which carry life sentences—for the torture and enslavement of two children in the family’s tailor shop.
Tin Thuzar, 59, Tin Min Latt, 37, Su Mon Latt, 27, and Yarzar Tun, 25, were charged under Burma’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law, the 1993 Child Law, and for assault under the Penal Code. Ko Latt, 63, and Thiri Latt, 37, were charged under the anti-trafficking law and the child law.
All of the defendants, who ran Ava tailor shop and factory in downtown Rangoon’s Kyauktada Township, pleaded not guilty in the West District Court. Their lawyers asked the judge to summon some witnesses to testify again.
“We’ll consult with our clients to file an appeal to the divisional court,” said one of the defense lawyers after the court session.
The anti-trafficking law carries a sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment, and the child law up to two years and a possible fine. Defendants found guilty of assault can face from seven years to life in prison and a fine.
The two girls, Ma San Kay Khaing, 17, and Ma Tha Zin, 18, both from Kawhmu Township, suffered five years of abuse at the hands of the tailor shop owners before the case came under the spotlight in August 2016. The family members were arrested in September 2016.
The girls worked as housemaids at the shop since the age of around 10, but that turned into forced domestic servitude. They escaped from the slave-like conditions after Myanmar Now news agency launched an investigative report into the allegations of abuse.
Ma San Kay Khaing received treatment at Rangoon General Hospital for more than five months for burns, broken fingers, and flesh wounds reportedly inflicted with knives and scissors.
The next court hearing is scheduled for June 8, when prosecution witnesses will testify again. The district judge overseeing the case will retire in June, and a new judge will take her place.
The six family members have been detained in Insein Prison since the trial began at the West District Court eight months ago.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.