SINGAPORE: A Singaporean couple convicted two years ago of abusing their Indonesian maid were found guilty on Monday (Mar 4) of abusing another domestic helper.
Tay Wee Kiat, 41, and his 43-year-old wife Chia Yun Ling were convicted of six and 15 charges respectively. The offences were committed mostly in 2012.
During the trial, the court heard that their maid, 31-year-old Myanmar national Moe Moe Than, was slapped and caned. She slept fewer than six hours a day and ate mostly rice on its own or with sugar.
When she complained that she did not have enough to eat, she was forced to eat rice and sugar, poured down her mouth through a funnel.
After running to the toilet as she was choking, Ms Than was instructed by Chia to throw up inside a plastic bag and eat her vomit.
Chia allowed Ms Than to use the toilet only three times a day in order not to waste water. If she used it more frequently, she was punished in ways such as having to jump like a rabbit.
Tay and Chia first made the news for abusing their Indonesian maid over a period of two years. They appealed but the High Court in March 2018 upheld the convictions, and set out a new sentencing framework to guide maid abuse cases.
VICTIM HIRED TO HELP ANOTHER MAID WHO WAS ALSO ABUSED
Tay and Chia lived in a five-room flat in Yishun with their three children, then aged one, three and seven.
Ms Than worked for them from Jan 8, 2011 to Nov 12, 2012. She was hired to help Indonesian maid Fitriyah, who worked there between December 2010 and December 2012.
It was not disputed that Ms Than's monthly salary of S$400, plus S$20 as compensation for not having any days off, was withheld from her during the entire period of her employment.
District Judge Olivia Low said she was satisfied that the prosecution had proven beyond reasonable doubt that Chia slapped Ms Than on four occasions.
Once, Chia slapped her for accidentally dropping the baby on the floor as she felt tired and sleepy. Mr Than had to wake up at 5.30am daily and went to bed only after midnight.
During the trial, Chia denied this, but the judge said she found Ms Than forthright in her explanation and recounting of the incident.
Ms Than testified that she also had to massage Chia's foot every night until she was satisfied, and this would usually go on until midnight.
On one occasion, she dozed off and Chia picked up a cane near her pillow and hit her head, saying: "You sleepy? You must continue massaging."
Ms Fitriyah, who had returned to Singapore to testify in the trial, said she saw Chia caning Ms Than on the head.
Chia denied this, claiming that Ms Than had volunteered to massage her, and that she would merely move her leg to wake Ms Than up when she dozed off.
The incident with the rice and sugar was corroborated by Ms Fitriyah as well, whose description of the shape of the funnel was consistent with Ms Than's.
Chia denied that this happened, conducting an experiment and filming it to show that it was not possible for a mixture of rice and sugar to be forced down a funnel into Ms Than's mouth.
HUSBAND CANED MAIDS, MADE THEM SLAP EACH OTHER
As for Tay, the judge found him guilty of six charges, acquitting him of two others.
He had caned Ms Than's hand and buttocks for chipping the dining table, as well as hit her buttocks with a broomstick and a metal clothing hook for waking up late. He had also caned both maids on the head.
Tay also made both women assume push-up positions before kicking them.
On another occasion, Tay made both maids slap each other 10 times and worship in front of the Buddhist altar table 100 times, even though Ms Than is Christian and Ms Fitriyah is Muslim.
The maids were punished because they had moved a small cloth on the altar without Tay's permission.
Ms Than sought help from her Myanmar agent in November 2012, and a Ministry of Manpower officer made a report that a maid had been severely abused by her employer.
She was examined at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in December that year and was found to have sustained multiple healed scars over her arm, wrist, hip and a healed laceration over her head.
For abusing Ms Fitriyah, Tay was previously sentenced to 28 months' jail, while his wife was given two months' jail. After appealing, his sentence was increased to 43 months.
The court allowed the couple to begin their sentences only after the end of the trial involving Ms Than.
They will be back in court on Mar 18 for sentencing.