Four members of Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) resigned in the wake of public protests over their actions settling a high-profile abuse case involving two teenage maids who were allegedly tortured by their employers.
In a statement issued on Thursday, President Htin Kyaw announced that Zaw Win, Nyan Zaw, Than Than New and Daw Mya Mya were "allowed to leave” the human rights commission “according to their wishes” following the MNHRC’s decision against pursuing a criminal case against the girls’ employers.
Ma San Kay Khaing, 17, and Ma Tha Zin, 16, say they endured five years of brutal physical abuse by a prominent family of tailors for whom they worked as maids in Kyauktada township in the commercial capital Yangon.
They said the family members stabbed them with scissors and knives, and burned them with an iron.
The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC), which accepted the girls’ case on Sept. 15, pressured their families to negotiate a monetary settlement with the alleged abusers rather than pursue legal action, according to local media reports.
The MNHRC mediated a deal in which the shop owner and her children paid 4 million kyats (U.S. $3,150) to one girl and 1 million kyats (U.S. $790) to the other in order to avoid punishment.
They did not express remorse for their actions and laid the blame on the girls, accusing them of disrespect while they were employed, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.
Rights activists protested against the MNHRC’s actions outside its offices on Sept. 21, prompting the commission to hold a press conference during which it attempted to defend its actions.
Civil society organizations pressed Htin Kyaw to take action, and the Lower House of Parliament on Sept. 22 voted in favor of action against the commission for failing to help the victims and violating their human rights.
‘Our conscience is clear’
At the time, MNHRC said it was only trying to get compensation for the two girls during its mediation and that legal recourse against the shop owner and her children was still a possibility.
“Three MNHRC members made inquiries about the complaint letter filed by the girls’ parents and arranged for a meeting with the home owners and the parents,” Zaw Win told reporters during the press conference.
“They were told they could solve the problem between themselves, and that there were two courses of action—one is to go to court, and the other is to find a monetary solution,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service in September.
“After some deliberations, the two sides agreed to end the case with compensation for the girls,” he said. “Our conscience is clear. We did our best with human rights basics and loving kindness.”
That didn’t satisfy rights activists or President Htin Kyaw as his office launched an investigation into the decision.
Yangon police have arrested four members of the family accused of the abuse. Owner Tin Thuzar, 57, was arrested on Tuesday, and Tin Min Latt, 37, Su Mon Latt, 27, and Ko Latt, 63, were arrested on Sept. 21, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the police force has filed charges against them for trafficking and abusing the two underage girls.
Reported and translated by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.