The president of Myanmar, Htin Kyaw, has ordered an investigation into the case of two girls who had been kidnapped, kept prisoner and tortured for five years in a tailor shop. A journalist helped to free the girls, while police arrested the tailor and two family members.
As reported by the BBC, these girls became maids in a tailor shop in the centre of Yangon. But what started as paid work allegedly turned into modern-day slavery. The girls say they were denied contact with their parents, were unable to leave and were no longer being paid.
Then there was the abuse. Visited by the French news agency AFP in their village after their release, the girls had injuries and scars on their arms which they say were inflicted by their captors.
“I have a scar from where an iron was stamped on my leg and a scar on my head as well,” one of the girls, now 16, told AFP.
“This was a wound from a knife, because my cooking was not OK,” she said, showing a mark on her nose.
The other girl, now 17, has burnt, twisted fingers – the consequence, she says, of them being broken deliberately by her captors as punishment.
The allegations of mistreatment are shocking, but it’s the authorities handling of the case that has really enraged the Burmese public, reported the BBC. Many see it as further proof of a judicial system stacked against the poorest and most vulnerable.
On several occasions over the last five years, the girls’ families say they asked the Burmese police for help and were turned away.
As reported by the AFP, the girls are among tens of thousands of children from poor rural areas sent to work as domestic helpers for the country’s growing pool of wealthier, urban middle-class households.
The impoverished country is the world’s seventh-worst for child labour, according to risk analysts Verisk Maplecroft, just ahead of India and Liberia.