Another episode of human inhumanity to other humans.
Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian police have detained a couple over the alleged murder of a Cambodian maid after the 24-year-old woman died of possible prolonged starvation, police said on Thursday.
Mey Sichan’s employers telephoned for an ambulance on March 31 but paramedics found her dead on arrival, Nasir Salleh, police chief of the northern state of Penang, told AFP. She also had bruises to her body.
A post-mortem revealed that she died from acute gastritis and ulcers likely due to lack of food over a long period, he said. The maid had been working for the family, who manage a hardware shop, for eight months.
“Definitely what happened to Sichan is inhumane. It is a shock to us,” the police chief said.
Sichan’s body weight had shrunk to 26 kilos, almost half that of a healthy woman, he said.
It took eight months.
The surprise move came after activists highlighted dozens of cases of sexual abuse, overwork and exploitation among the estimated 50,000 Cambodian women employed as domestic helpers in Malaysia.
Reports of abuse in Malaysia have frequently surfaced in recent years and led Indonesia to stop sending domestic helpers to the country in 2009, prompting a rise in demand for Cambodians.
Last August a Malaysian was sentenced to eight years in prison for abusing his Indonesian maid, three months after his wife was jailed for scalding the woman with a hot iron.
About 170,000 women, mostly from poor neighboring Southeast Asian countries, work as maids in Malaysia.
And this isn’t unusual.
Orn Eak’s body is covered in scars from beatings by a Kuala Lumpur woman who employed her through a Cambodia employment agency in early 2010. Single with a five-year-old son, Orn Eak says she joined 30,000 other young Cambodian women and girls working as maids in Malaysia because her mother was struggling to survive in their village in Kompong Thom province.
In Kuala Lumpur, Orn Eak had no days off and worked from dawn into the early hours of the next morning caring for her employer’s disabled mother. She says she was frequently beaten and often hungry.
Social workers have verified her claims of abuse. Nine Cambodian domestic workers died in Malaysia in 2011, according to human rights organisations.
Malaysian opposition MP Charles Santiago has accused the Malaysian government and police of ”totally disrespecting” laws by conducting only cursory investigations into the deaths.
Human Rights Watch says common abuses include excessive work hours with no rest days, lack of food and irregular or non-payment of salaries.
Many have reported sexual abuse, restrictions of movements and bans on contact with other maids.
A long way from the sentimental fairy tale of Downton Abbey, where the aristos just dote on the servants and treat them like favorite guests.