Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Abused Girl Heads for Hospital, as Thai Police Hunt for Couple

Two days after her tormentors failed to show up for a court hearing, an ethnic Karen girl who suffered severe injuries at the hands of an abusive Thai couple has been taken to a Bangkok hospital to receive treatment.

The 12-year-old girl, whose identity remains concealed to protect her privacy, is expected to undergo testing at Mahidol University’s Ramathibodi Hospital on the extensive damage done to her skin through repeated scalding allegedly inflicted by the couple, whom she accused of abducting her five years ago.

The couple, Nathee Taeng-orn, 35, and Rattanakorn Piyavoratharm, 33, of Kamphaeng Phet Province, failed to appear in court on Monday after being released on bail earlier this month. The girl escaped from their custody on Jan. 31.

Thai police have offered a reward of 100,000 baht (US $3,350) for information leading to their arrest.

According to Naing Htun, a Burmese labor official who is acting as the government’s official contact with the girl, the head of the children’s shelter where she has been staying since her escape said she would be transferred to Bangkok on Wednesday.

“He told me on the phone yesterday that they would be taking the girl to the best hospital in Bangkok today,” Naing Htun told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

There were earlier reports that the girl was be taken to a hospital in Nakhon Sawan Province, which neighbors Kamphaeng Phet. However, the severity of her injuries, which have caused her left arm to fuse with her chest, will require more advanced treatment than the hospital can provide.

Naing Htun said that he had expressed concern about the Thai court’s decision to grant the couple bail, but was assured that it wouldn’t prevent them facing justice.

“I asked the police about the couple’s release on bail, but they said they had already gathered enough evidence, and now it was up to the prosecutors to do their work,” he said. “They assured me everything would be done in accordance with the law.”

He said that the Burmese embassy also sent a letter to Thailand’s Foreign Ministry last week urging the Thai government to take the case seriously and to impose appropriate punishment on the perpetrators of the various crimes committed against the child.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Karen Network for Culture and Environment submitted a letter to Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra urging her to take immediate action in the case.

Nai Wai Ying, the network’s coordinator, was quoted by the Thai-language Hedlomnews newspaper on Tuesday as saying that the group is worried that the case will soon be forgotten, as often happens when the victim is a foreign national.

Burmese migrants in Thailand frequently suffer from discrimination and right abuses in Thailand, but such cases seldom result in a satisfactory court judgment, according to labor activists. In most instances, they say, the issue is swept under the rug after an initial period of media attention in extreme cases.

Naing Htun, who formerly worked at the Burmese embassy in Bangkok, echoed this concern, saying that he has seen the same thing happen many times in the past.

“I’m worried that this case will also disappear in the near future, because we have experienced many such incidents before,” he said.

A Burmese official working with migrant workers in Thailand also said that there is a real danger that justice won’t be done in this case.

“Whenever rights abuses happen, the Thais tend to be quiet and then forget about them after a while. We used to hire lawyers in labor disputes or abuse cases, but in the end, we Burmese always lost in court,” he said.

By Irrawaddy

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