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Police to face punishment for failing to act in Ava abuse case

Rangoon Division Border and Security Affairs Minister Col. Tin Aung Tun addresses the Rangoon Division parliament on 3 October 2016. (Photo: DVB)

Rangoon Division’s Border and Security Affairs Ministry has vowed to take punitive action against police officers accused of failing to act in the high-profile case of two housemaids who allegedly suffered horrendous abuses at the hands of their employers.

The case, involving the owners of the well-known Ava Tailors garment shop in downtown Rangoon, has also sparked public outrage against the authorities since it was first reported in late September.

Responding to questions from lawmakers in the regional parliament on Monday, Border and Security Affairs Minister Col. Tin Aung Tun said that police in Kyauktada Township had failed to respond appropriately when the case was first reported to them in July and are currently under investigation.

“When a crime has been committed, the police are responsible to investigate it and take action accordingly. For failing to do so, we are currently investigating the district police commander as well as the township commander and local detectives,” he said.

“We will see punitive action against these officers under police regulations.”

He added that the regional government is working with the Union-level Ministry of Home Affairs and Department of Social Welfare to prevent similar human rights abuses from occurring in the future.

The victims in the case accuse their former employers of forcing them to work under slave-like conditions for more than four years and torturing them for making minor mistakes.

Local journalist Swe Win, the editor of news agency Myanmar Now, first informed the Kyauktada police of the alleged abuses in July, but when they didn’t take action, he reported the case to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC).

The MNHRC later negotiated a settlement to provide the girls with 5 million kyat (around US$4,000) in compensation, but has also come under fire for its handling of the case.

Currently six people — all from the family that owns the Ava Tailor shop — are in police custody facing multiple charges, including human trafficking and torture.