Myanmar maid Piang Ngaih Don's death shows employer's ‘extreme cruelty’ – Shanmugam

SINGAPORE — The death of Myanmar maid Piang Ngaih Don in Singapore showed her employer's “extreme inhumanity” and “extreme cruelty”, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Thursday (25 February).

Speaking at a virtual doorstop alongside Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, Shanumugam said, “I’m sure I speak for many Singaporeans when I express our complete abhorrence at what happened.”

His comments come after Gaiyathiri Murugayan, Piang’s employer, admitted in court on Tuesday to killing the 24-year-old maid from repeated choking. Gaiyathiri pleaded guilty to 28 charges involving culpable homicide, grievous hurt, hurt, wrongful restraint and criminal intimidation. The prosecution is pushing for a life jail sentence for Gaiyathiri.

Myanmar national Piang Ngaih Don. (PHOTO: Helping Hands for Migrant Workers, Singapore/Facebook)
Myanmar national Piang Ngaih Don. (PHOTO: Helping Hands for Migrant Workers, Singapore/Facebook)

Piang had 47 external injuries and 31 fresh scars all over her body through repeated abuse. She weighed just 24kg, having lost 38 per cent of her initial weight of 39kg at the time of her death. The multiple abuse incidents she had suffered included being burnt with heated iron, hit repeatedly, denied food, and others.

“In fact, none of these words describe adequately what actually happened to her...She was starved and beaten to death. The bestiality of the conduct is shocking,” Shanmugam said.

"If you go back to history, the history of people, history of countries – ordinary people are capable of extreme evil, and evil lurks in people who seem ordinary."

Gaiyathiri’s policeman-husband Kevin Chelvam and her mother Prema S Naraynasamy are facing multiple charges of abuse and others.

Shanmugam said that Chelvam will also face police proceedings arising from the policeman’s actions. “After the criminal proceedings in court are over, he will face disciplinary proceedings regardless of the outcome of the trial because whatever happens in the trial, the police have their own internal set of proceedings, and disciplinary proceedings will be commenced.”

A day earlier, Teo also responded to Piang’s case in a Facebook post, saying that there is no place for abuse of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) in Singapore and called for an end to it.

"The Government takes the protection of FDWs seriously and will let the law run its course. The suffering and death of Ms Piang should never have happened. Abuse is abhorrent, whoever the victims are. When it involves FDWs, all the more we have to act," Teo said.

The Manpower Ministry’s review of measures to protect FDWs will continue including the threshold for blacklisting errant employers, as well as improving measures to detect abuse, she added.

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