The Irrawaddy

Three Arrested in Rangoon Tailor Abuse Case

A man walks past the Ava tailoring shop on 40th Street in Rangoon’s Kyauktada Township

RANGOON — Three members of a family accused of human trafficking and abuse at a downtown Rangoon tailoring shop have been arrested and detained by Yangon Police Force, according to the force’s official Facebook page.

The Anti-Human Trafficking Unit filed charges against grandmother Daw Tin Thuzar and one of her daughters, Ma Su Mon Latt of Ava Tailor Shop at Kyauktada Township’s police department, Lt­-Col Myo Thein of the unit told The Irrawaddy.

Daw Tin Thuzar was detained Tuesday while Ma Su Mon Latt and Ko Tin Min Latt were arrested on Wednesday lunchtime. Ko Tin Min Latt is believed to be another family member.

The two girls, San Kay Khaing aged 16 and and Tha Zin aged 17, suffered five years of abuse at the hands of owners of the six-floor tailor shop and factory on 40th Street in the heart of the former capital, according to the victims.

Myo Thein said that the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit saw the case unfold on social media and filed charges against the offenders as per Burma’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law. He filed both charges against the tailors on Tuesday afternoon and said that the police station had accepted the case.

According to Article 24 of the law, anyone found guilty of trafficking in persons, especially women, children, and young persons, shall be punished with a minimum prison term of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Article 32 imposes the same punishment for anyone who “prepares, attempts, conspires, organizes, administers or abets” in any of the offences stated in the law.

The case was initially filed at the Kyauktada Township police station three months ago by U Swe Win, chief correspondent of Myanmar Now news agency, after a member of the family notified him about the abuse of the girls and asked for help in rescuing them.

When the police failed to take action, he said, he contacted the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC).

U Swe Win said that the police and the MNHRC had recommended that the victims’ families accept monetary compensation for the crime, since a legal fight would be lengthy and held no guarantee of justice.

The families acted on the recommendation, and the family accused of the abuse paid 4 million kyats to San Kay Khaing (US$3,235) and 1 million ($809) to Tha Zin. The amount included three years’ worth of salaries that had not been paid.

Since escaping the tailoring shop on Sept. 5, the two girls have been recovering at their family’s homes in Bawlonekwin village in Rangoon’s Kawhmu Township.

Myo Thein explained that the offenders also violated Article 3 of the law, which prohibits “debt-bondage”—whereby a debtor pledges personal labor or services to repay a debt that is not clearly defined or assessed.

“The offenders exploited the girls by not paying their full salaries for about two years,” he said. “There was also torture and physical abuse.”

Myo Thein said his unit will pursue the accused even if the families of the victims agreed to settle the case through monetary compensation.

“Such a case should not be settled or dropped,” he said.