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Lengthy prison terms handed down to four in high-profile domestic abuse case

One of the victims in the Ava Tailors abuse case shows scars and other injuries inflicted by her former employers. (Photo: DVB)

Yangon’s Western District Court on Friday sentenced four defendants to hefty prison terms in a case of domestic abuse that captured the nation’s attention when it was uncovered last year.

Under a mix of charges spanning Burma’s Anti-Human Trafficking Law, Childs Rights Law and Penal Code provisions, Tin Thuzar and Su Mon Latt received sentences of 16 years and one month in prison with hard labour. Yazar Tun was given 13 years and one month in prison with hard labour under the same statutes, and Tin Min Latt was sentenced to nine years and one month.

Tin Thuzar, who is in her late 50s, seemed to be suffering from health problems, appearing for Friday’s hearing in a wheelchair.

Two other defendants in the case — Ko Latt and Thiri Latt — were exonerated and released on Friday.

One of the defendants’ lawyers, Hnin Su Aung, said an appeal would be submitted, arguing that the sentences handed down were too harsh.

“We didn’t expect that the judge would decide heavy sentences. We need to file an application for appeal within one month,” she said.

The mother of Yazar Tun said that her son did not violate Burma’s Anti-Human Trafficking Law, adding that she was shocked upon hearing the judge’s ruling at the court on Friday.

“We have already given 5 million kyats as compensation to them [the families of the victims],” she said.

The high-profile case involved the enslavement, torture and abuse of two young housemaids at the Ava Tailors garment shop in Yangon’s Kyauktada Township.

The convicted foursome, all family members, were prosecuted for enslaving San Kay Khine and Thazin, both in their teens, for years at their shop and abusing them as punishment for minor mistakes in the workplace.

The case was brought to authorities’ attention when reporter Swe Win of the Myanmar Now news agency filed a complaint with the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC). Following negotiations mediated by the commission, the family agreed to pay the girls a total sum of 5 million kyats ($4,000) as compensation for mistreating them.

However, the national police force’s Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce in September 2016 issued a warrant for the family’s arrest and they were subsequently detained.

The MNHRC’s overall handling of the case stirred controversy and four members of the commission resigned as a result, in October 2016.