Myanmar maid recounts incidents of abuse by Singaporean couple

Hannah Teoh
Senior Content Producer
Singapore’s State Courts. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

A maid from Myanmar has alleged that her Singaporean employers abused her on many occasions including hitting her on the head and buttocks, and forcing her to eat her own vomit.

Moe Moe Than, now 29, was testifying against Tay Wee Kiat, a 39-year-old former IT manager, and his wife Chia Yun Ling, 41, in the State Courts before District Judge Olivia Low on Monday (25 September).

Tay faces 19 charges including voluntarily causing hurt to Than, and abetting in voluntarily causing hurt by asking Than and Fitriyah, an Indonesian maid who was also employed by the couple, to slap each other. Chia faces 11 charges including voluntarily causing hurt and insulting Than’s modesty.

In March this year, Tay was sentenced to two years and four months’ jail on 12 charges including causing hurt to Fitriyah, who used only one name, and instructing her to lie to the police that he did not abuse Than. Chia was given two months’ jail for slapping Fitriyah and punching her forehead. The incidents occurred between June and December 2012. The couple appealed against their conviction and sentences, and are out on $5,000 bail each.

Speaking through an interpreter, Than recounted that Chia had caned her buttocks, slapped her, hit her on the head, and forced her to wear only a bra and a pair of shorts as punishment for various incidents.

During one incident, Chia was unhappy with Than for not giving her daughter enough water. As a punishment, Chia made the maid strip herself naked and took a photo of her. Chia laughed at her and showed the photo to Fitriyah, Than added.

Just before she was sent home to Myanmar, Than said that Chia threatened her by saying that if she told anyone about the abuse, Chia would hire someone to kill her parents. When Deputy Public Prosecutor Dora Tay asked her how this made her feel, Than said, “I feel sad because they have money and they can do anything they want.”

In December 2012, Than returned to Singapore to lodge a police report.

Than said that she did not get enough sleep while she was working for the couple as her rest hours were from 12 midnight to 5:30am.

The maid added that she did not have enough to eat. She was fed only plain rice and plain water for most meals, and even ate a banana skin once as she was famished, Than said.

When she told Chia about being given little to eat, Chia force-fed her a mixture of rice and sugar through a funnel. After she went to the toilet to throw up, Chia told Fitriyah to bring her a plastic bag, then instructed Than to throw up into the bag and eat her vomit.

Than was only allowed to use the toilet three times a day, and would be punished if she used the toilet more than three times. The maid also had her movements monitored by the couple via close-circuit cameras in the house.

Separately, Tay had also hit Than with various objects including a broomstick and a cane, the maid testified. Once, Tay hit her head repeatedly until she bled and asked her to clean up the blood that had dripped on the floor.

In another incident, Tay accused Than of moving a cloth covering a Buddha statue from its original position. Tay then asked her and Fitriyah to slap each other 10 times. Tay told them to bow down in front of a Buddhist altar even though Than is a Christian and Fitriyah is a Muslim, according to Than.

The two maids were also asked to inflict a similar punishment on each other when they could not find a child pacifier.

Tay and Chia, who are represented by lawyer Wee Pan Lee, face a maximum jail term of two years or a fine of up to $5,000 for voluntarily causing hurt to Than.

The hearing continues on Tuesday (26 September).