Couple jailed over years of maid abuse

Husband Tay Wee Kiat faced 12 charges involving the couple's two maids, while Chia Yun Ling was convicted of hitting one of them.
Husband Tay Wee Kiat faced 12 charges involving the couple's two maids, while Chia Yun Ling was convicted of hitting one of them.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Husband, who forced two maids to hit each other, clearly the main perpetrator: Judge

A married couple were sentenced to jail after a 14-day trial that revealed the numerous ways they had assaulted their Indonesian maid for almost two years.

Addressing the husband, Tay Wee Kiat, just before delivering the sentence, District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said: "It is clear that you are the main perpetrator."

He sentenced the 39-year-old former regional information technology manager to two years and four months in jail, after convicting him of all 12 charges.

Nine of the charges were for causing hurt to Ms Fitriyah, 34, who uses one name. She had worked for them in Yishun Avenue 6 from Dec 7, 2010 to Dec 12, 2012.

The other charges were for making his maid from Myanmar, Ms Moe Moe Than, slap Ms Fitriyah on the face; offering to pay Ms Fitriyah and send her home in exchange for not reporting his abuse; and instructing Ms Fitriyah to lie to the police that he did not abuse Ms Than.

Chia Yun Ling, 41, a former senior sales manager who is now a part-time events administrator, was sentenced to two months' jail for slapping Ms Fitriyah some time between June and December 2012 and punching her on the forehead on Dec 7 that year.

During the trial, the court heard that Tay hit Ms Fitriyah's head with canes and bamboo sticks. He also slapped and kicked her while she was in a push-up position and grabbed her chin and pushed her head against a cabinet.

In one incident in February 2011, he stuffed an incense bottle into Ms Fitriyah's mouth and forced her to stand on one leg on a stool for half an hour while holding another stool overhead.

Ms Than, 28, testified that Tay had forced both her and Ms Fitriyah to get down on all fours, and then kicked their buttocks. He also made them slap each other 10 times and hit them with three canes.

In October 2012, Ms Than - who spent 10 months working for the couple - was sent back to Myanmar without being given a reason. She returned later to make a police report against her former employers.

Seeking at least 33 months' jail for Tay and at least three months' jail for Chia, deputy public prosecutors Kumaresan Gohulabalan and Dora Tay cited aggravating factors such as the couple's abuse of authority.

"He virtually treated Fitriyah as a punching bag upon which he could vent his frustrations on matters that had nothing to do with her," said the prosecutors.

The couple could each have been jailed for up to three years and fined up to $7,500 on each charge of causing hurt.

Tay could have been jailed for up to seven years and/or fined for bribery of a witness, and jailed for up to one year and/or fined up to $5,000 for instigation of a false statement.

Both are appealing and are out on $5,000 bail each. Tay and Chia still have 11 and 17 stood-down charges respectively. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for April 4.

In an advisory last night, a spokesman for the Ministry of Manpower urged employers of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) to be patient and understanding towards their employees.

"If employers or FDWs are facing problems with their employment relationship, they should approach their employment agency or call the Centre for Domestic Employees on 1800-2255-233 for advice and assistance," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2017, with the headline 'Couple jailed over years of maid abuse'. Print Edition | Subscribe