Sat, Apr 14, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Malaysian couple suspected of starving maid to death

AFP, Kuala Lumpur

A Malaysian couple were charged yesterday with the murder of their Cambodian maid, who police suspect may have died of prolonged starvation.

The alleged abuse case of Mey Sichan, who would have turned 24 in September, is one of many that have caused both Cambodia and Indonesia to suspend sending maids to Malaysia.

Hardware store owners Soh Chew Tong, 43, and his wife Chin Chui Ling, 40, were charged in a district court in northern Penang State over their maid’s murder, government lawyer Nurdeenie Abdul Rashid said.

Murder convictions carry a mandatory death penalty by hanging. No plea was recorded, pending submission of a post-mortem report. The next court date is on June 7, Nurdeenie said.

Mey Sichan was found dead by paramedics called by her employers on March 31.

When found, she weighed 26kg. She also had bruises on her body.

Police said she died from acute gastritis and ulcers likely due to lack of food over a long period. The maid had been working for the family for eight months.

In October last year, Cambodia imposed a temporary ban on sending domestic workers to Malaysia, heavily dependent on those from poorer regional countries to fill the positions shunned by locals.

The surprise move came after activists highlighted dozens of cases of sexual abuse, overwork and exploitation among the estimated 50,000 Cambodian women employed as domestic helpers in Malaysia.

Reports of abuse in Malaysia have frequently surfaced in recent years and also led Indonesia to stop sending domestic helpers to the country in 2009, prompting a rise in demand for Cambodians.

Indonesian maids are expected to arrive in Malaysia again from later this month, according to an Indonesian embassy official, after Malaysia pledged to better protect them, including granting them one day day a week.

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