Slow starvation


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.

 

Comments

  1. Josh Slocum says

    Why? Why? Why?

    I don’t get this on any level. I can’t even get close to comprehending why you’d want to treat any sentient creature that way, let alone a person. How you could watch that suffering and not care.

    Even if cold, calculated economics are the only measurement brought to bear, it still doesn’t make any fucking sense to kill your employees!

    Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!!!! How. . .I need to understand how it’s possible for human beings to get into this psychological state. I have to have some explanation and some hope that it can be short-circuited.

  2. left0ver1under says

    There have been many other cases of mistreatment and abuse of foreign labour by wealthy employers. In the link below, an Indonesian woman working as a maid was facing execution for murder despite claiming self-defence against rape. If she were really guilty, why did the family accept a bribe and allow her to leave?

    http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article461617.ece

    There have been many cases of hired domestic labourers being beaten into confessions (and sometimes executed) for crimes they didn’t commit. I wouldn’t doubt that some of them were coverups of murder by the family, blaming the foreigner.

  3. Tony says


    mnbO

    I have no words but fuck cultural relativism.

    -I’m with you. I’m all for different cultures, but when it comes to basic human rights, everyone deserves them, regardless the culture.

  4. says

    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.

    I honestly have no idea how accurate Downtown Abbey is regarding servants, but I am under the impression that English servants were were not abused in the way the servants in those articles were, at least not during the early 20th Century.

    A lot of the reason for that is the difference in economic circumstances. It was getting increasing difficult to find good servants in the early 20th Century because of the growing economic opportunities that were popping up at the time. Basically, you can’t get away with beating your servants with a stick if they have access to non-stick-beating career opportunties.

    Not that any of this justifies what was done to those women.

  5. Matt Penfold says

    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.

    For some reason I read that as “like favorite pets”.

    I think my version works even better.

  6. Matt Penfold says

    A lot of the reason for that is the difference in economic circumstances. It was getting increasing difficult to find good servants in the early 20th Century because of the growing economic opportunities that were popping up at the time. Basically, you can’t get away with beating your servants with a stick if they have access to non-stick-beating career opportunties.

    The problem became quite acute following the First World War. A significant number of men had been killed or maimed, and so women were beginning to move into jobs that had traditionally male dominated. Given these jobs paid better, and had better conditions, it is not surprising the role of women in the workplace underwent a significant change.

  7. ash says

    slocum says:

    “Even if cold, calculated economics are the only measurement brought to bear, it still doesn’t make any fucking sense to kill your employees!”

    yeah that’s what I fail to get too.

    And then there’s this: …”The maid had been working for the family, who manage a hardware shop…”

    Q: In what world do hardware-shop managers in second tier countries make enough to afford live-in maids?

    A: They don’t.

    All these stories about maid-abuse in poorer countries makes me think there must be some sort of virulent show-off “maid-having” meme entrenched in those cultures. The abuse seems to be attendant to that meme.

  8. ash says

    And why did they call the paramedics at all? What did they think was wrong with her then that hadn’t been wrong with her for months. Was this their way of pretending they didnhad nothing to do with her death? I suppose burying bodies in your back yard still isn’t cricket in that culture, or we would have otherwise heard nothing about this.

  9. says

    Josh and Ash: It takes an upbringing, backed with the full force of society, of believing that certain groups of people are not only profoundly inferior to one’s own group but exist for one to use and abuse.

    Even if cold, calculated economics are the only measurement brought to bear, it still doesn’t make any fucking sense to kill your employees!

    If a life is held cheaply enough and the desperate person can readily be replaced by other desperate people, that person’s… owner (because “employer” is really inadequate here — this is slavery) regards that person as, literally, disposable.

  10. stonyground says

    This story needs pointing out to those who claim that modern societies are becoming more immoral as they are becoming less religious. What they are usually referring to is that our attitudes to sex are becoming more liberal, religious types tend to think that a healthy attitude toward human sexuality is a bad thing.

  11. says

    Ash:

    Q: In what world do hardware-shop managers in second tier countries make enough to afford live-in maids?

    A: They don’t.

    You have it backwards, the poorer a country is, the cheaper domestic servants are. DOmestic servitude is subject to Baumol’s Cost Disease, as a country gets richer the middle class stop hiring servants and the rich cut down their staffs. It gets to the point where only the very rich have any servants at all.

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