Thai Court Awards Abused Karen Girl $140K in Compensation

By Nyein Nyein 2 July 2014

A Karen girl who suffered horrific abuse while working as a maid for a Thai couple in Kampaeng Phet town, Thailand, has been awarded about US$143,000 in compensation by a local court, a Thai human rights worker said.

The Thai prosecutor, however, has not yet opened a criminal case against the perpetrators, who have fled.

Preeda Tongchumnum, the assistant to the secretary general of the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF), said Kampaeng Phet Provincial Court ordered the accused Nathee Taengorn and Rattanakorn Piyavoratharm to pay the compensation sum (4,603,233 Thai baht) on Monday as the victim’s lawyers had demanded.

“The couple is still at large, but lawyers will investigate all of the employers’ properties to compensate her,” said Preeda. It remains unclear whether the couple, which ran a dog-selling business, has enough assets to generate the compensation the court awarded.

Preeda said the couple remains on the run and Thai police had made no progress in tracking them down, adding, “We need the police officers to work harder to find this couple.”

HRDF helped the 12-year-old, ethnic Karen girl file a civil case complaint after she managed to escape from her abusive employers on Jan. 31 last year.

The young girl suffered extensive damage done to her skin through repeated scalding allegedly inflicted by the couple, whom she accused of abducting her five years ago and forcing her to work as a house maid.

Poilice investigated Nathee Taengorn and Rattanakorn Piyavoratharm for child abuse, child labor and illegal detention. Despite the seriousness of the charges, the Thai court released Nathee Taengorn and Rattanakorn Piyavoratharm on bail last year and the couple has since fled.

Although more than a year has passed since the girl fled, the Thai prosecutor has failed to open a criminal case against the couple.

“In the criminal case, police officers already have proved their findings to the prosecutor. Now the investigation file is in the hands of the public prosecutor. As of now, they [the couple] are not present and not arrested, and there is no criminal lawsuit against them,” Preeda said.

It remains unclear why the Thai prosecutor has not yet opened a criminal case to prosecute those responsible for the horrific abuse of the child, but her status as an unregistered migrant from Burma could have affected the case as Thai authorities are sometimes loath to act in defense of migrants.

Millions of poor migrants from Cambodia and Burma have entered Thailand in search of a better life and many cross into the country illegally, leaving them vulnerable to labor abuse by Thai employers and with little legal recourse in case of abuses.

The Karen girl continues to receive healthcare treatment for her wounds, some of which have caused lifelong health problems, at Mahidol University’s Ramathibodi hospital in Bangkok.

Her left arm was damaged because of continuous abuse and she was unable to bend it towards the body or to stretch it. She has received corrective surgery for her arm, while also undergoing psychological treatment by a pediatrician and psychologist for the mental trauma she suffered.

“She is still being taken care of at a [government] shelter in Kampaeng Phet, but she goes to Bangkok hospital whenever the doctor calls her for treatment,” said Preeda, adding that the victims’ parents continue to work in the town.

“She cannot make a 100 percent recovery, but the doctor will help her to move her body like any other person,” said Preeda, adding that the considerable compensation sum was awarded because the young girl must endure life-long health conditions.

“Compensation is not just about the damage happened before, it is also for future cost, such as medical treatment and things that she has lost, like her beauty…. She can have a baby but her ability to breast feed maybe not possible as she lost such organs due to abuse,” Preeda said.

“I think it is very good precedent for those who want to bring lawsuit against perpetrator,” she said about the case.