The cases of abuse of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) adjudicated by courts have been rising in recent years. But the most recently reported case of 24-year-old Myanmar national Piang Ngaih Don, who was cruelly tortured and starved by her employer over several months and eventually killed, was as the prosecution pointed out, "especially heinous and especially horrific".
The case, which is not the first instance of maid abuse leading to death, has not surprisingly led to an outpouring of public outrage. It raises several questions relating to how the safeguards against maid abuse can be reinforced. The Manpower Ministry already has several safeguards in place, including a settling-in programme, during which first-time FDWs are informed of their rights and conditions of employment; briefings for first-time employers on their responsibilities; interviews of FDWs assessed to be in need of support and six-monthly medical examinations, with doctors advised to report signs of abuse to the authorities.