20 months' jail for woman who nearly blinded maid

20 months' jail for woman who nearly blinded maid
PHOTO: The Straits Times

A woman who nearly blinded her maid by punching her in the face whenever she became angry was jailed for a year and eight months yesterday.

The injuries, including retinal detachment, caused Myanmar national Than Than Soe to be blind in her left eye, while her right eye was injured severely.

Singaporean Suzanna Bong Sim Swan, 46, had also forced her to sleep on the floor, refused to pay her salary and denied her any days off during the two years she employed her, a court heard.

District Judge Carol Ling, in sentencing the employer, also ordered that she pay the maid more than $38,000 in compensation, including her medical expenses and prospective loss of earnings.

Bong was found guilty of an assault charge in February, following an eight-day trial.

The prosecution said the maid was aged 27 when she started working in May 2013 in a Yishun flat that belonged to Bong's parents. She was not given any days off.

"In addition to the physical abuse she suffered, the victim was also exploited as she was forced to work without pay," deputy public prosecutors Tang Shangjun and Chong Kee En said in their submissions.

"The victim testified that she had never been paid a salary throughout the two years that she was working for the accused.

"It was only after MOM (the Ministry of Manpower) intervened that the victim was paid her salary in full," they added.

A detailed account of the abuse inflicted on Ms Than Than Soe was given during the trial.

The court heard that Bong began to find fault with her work after the first four months. Initially, she just scolded her, but it escalated slowly into physical abuse.

The prosecutors said: "The accused would... generally inflict physical abuse on the victim about two to three times a week, with such attacks being concentrated on the victim's face.''

Often, the maid was punched in her eyes. The abuse worsened after Ms Than Than Soe moved in early 2015 to work in Bong's Sengkang flat.

The maid was not given dinner about three times a week, and occasionally lunch, too. She was not given a mattress and had to sleep on her sarong on the floor.

Ms Than Than Soe, who had perfect eyesight before, began to experience blurred vision around January 2014. But Bong refused to take her to a doctor despite her complaints about poor eyesight.

On May 17, 2015, Bong became upset when she came home and smelled the medicated oil Ms Than Than Soe had used to ease her headache, as the family dog apparently did not like the smell.

Bong seized the glass bottle containing the oil in her hand, made a fist with it and hit the maid on her left cheek three times.

The following day, Ms Than Than Soe called the police to tell them of her ordeal, and officers took her to a hospital. She was later taken to a shelter for victims of violence.

She has since had operations performed on her eyes and regained some of her sight.

Bong, represented by lawyers Sui Yi Siong and Flora Koh, denied abusing the maid. She said the maid was "very slow in her work", and claimed she had treated her as a daughter and that she was "part of the family". Mr Sui told the court his client will be appealing, and she was offered bail of $10,000.

OTHER SERIOUS MAID ABUSE CASES

A couple who starved their maid and caused her weight to plummet from 49kg to 29kg had their jail terms increased on Sept 15 last year following an appeal. The sentence for housewife Chong Sui Foon, 48, was raised from three months to 10. Instead of his three-week sentence and $10,000 fine, her husband, freelance trader Lim Choon Hong, also 48, was given 10 months in jail. When working for the couple, Filipina Thelma Oyasan Gawidan was fed white bread, tap water and instant noodles. The maid finally fled their apartment at The Boulevard Residence condominium in Cuscaden Walk on April 19, 2014.

Zinnerah Abdul Majeed abused her maid a month after the Myanmar national started working. Twice she used a heated metal spoon to burn Ms May Thu Phyo, 23, causing second-degree burns. Between late August and Sept 3, 2015 , she hit the maid with a bicycle lock, a metal belt buckle, a TV remote control, a bamboo pole and the handle of a butter knife. The 28-year-old was jailed for 20 months in November 2016.

Anpalaki Muniandy Marimuthu, 65, and daughter Jayasheela Jayaraman, 43, were jailed 16 and 12 months, respectively, on Sept 23, 2016, for hurting the latter's maid. Ms Sriyatun, 27, was left with a permanent disability in her left ear. She was slapped for not carrying Jayasheela's shoes into the family's flat, had her ear pinched and her breast twisted for being slow.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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