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Thailand: Domestic worker from Myanmar rescues sister from decade of slavery

Thailand: Domestic worker from Myanmar rescues sister from decade of slavery

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by IDWFED published Nov 18, 2015 12:00 AM
Contributors: Alisa Tang/Thomson Reuters Foundation
When Aye Than Dar and her little sister Hla Thidar Myint paid a broker in Myanmar's Mon state to smuggle them to Thailand for domestic work, it was the start of a decade-long ordeal that would see the pair separated and Hla held as a slave.

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Read the original article in full: Domestic worker from Myanmar rescues sister from decade of slavery | Thomson Reuters Foundation

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Photo: Thomson Reuters Foundation (screen capture)

When Aye Than Dar and her little sister Hla Thidar Myint paid a broker in Myanmar's Mon state to smuggle them to Thailand for domestic work, it was the start of a decade-long ordeal that would see the pair separated and Hla held as a slave.

After paying the broker $600 to get them over the border, Aye and Hla were sent to work in separate homes in Ban Pong, in Thailand's Ratchaburi province, west of Bangkok.

"When we arrived in Thailand, an agent came to pick us up. We got jobs in two different places in Ratchaburi, but we didn't know where each of us was sent, so we couldn't contact each other," Aye said.

It was February 2004, and Aye heard nothing from her sister until she found her more than nine years later.

Hla, who is intellectually disabled, had been barred contact with her family and denied a salary.

"She was completely unable to go outside by herself. She could only go with her boss. She never knew what her salary was. When she wanted something, she had to ask her boss," said Aye, now 34, sighing in frustration.

Hla would start work at 4 a.m., mop the floor and clean her employer's stationery shop. After that she cleaned the house.

"He let me go to sleep at 8 p.m., but I would stay up watching soap operas," Hla, 32, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview with the sisters at a McDonald's in Bangkok.

Thailand hosts around 3 million migrant workers, 80 percent of them from next door Myanmar. They take jobs in construction, agriculture, the seafood industry and domestic work.

Many employers, like Hla's, think they are being generous by taking in poor young women and having them do household chores - often not seen as real work - in exchange for room and board. They say they treat their maids "like family".

"I want to vomit when I hear this. It's too often that employers say things like this. Will you treat your sister or your mum like this?" said Elizabeth Tang, the general secretary of the International Domestic Workers Federation.

"This is a huge perception problem: employers like this think they are actually doing charity because this worker came from Myanmar, she didn't speak the language. She was alone, she just arrived. She had no job, so taking her into the house and giving her food and a place to sleep was a big charity."

Source: Alisa Tang/Thomson Reuters Foundation

Story Type: Story

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