YANGON: Myanmar’s president Friday ordered an investigation into how authorities handled the case of two girls who say they were enslaved and tortured for years by the owners of a tailor shop.
The teenagers were rescued this month and their story has gripped a country appalled by the abuse they suffered and the police’s failure to intervene earlier.
The girls, aged 16 and 17, said they spent five years working as housemaids at the shop in downtown Yangon where they were beaten, burnt and deprived of sleep and food.
Their families said police refused to help them free the girls on multiple occasions.
They were rescued this month after a local journalist alerted the human rights commission.
On Friday, Myanmar’s president Htin Kyaw ordered a report on how authorities had handled the case.
“The President’s office has instructed the home affairs ministry to report in detail on how Kyauktada police station officials took action,” his office said in a statement.
“The President’s office has… been studying the performance of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission,” it added.
The girls were just 11 and 12 when a friend took them to Myanmar’s bustling commercial capital with the promise of good jobs as housemaids.
AFP reporters who visited them in their tiny village this week saw evidence of horrific wounds on their bodies, including scars from where they say they were stabbed with scissors and branded with a hot iron.
One of the girls’ fingers were twisted at strange angles — she says they were broken as a punishment by her captors.
The head of their village told AFP they are now under police protection at a Yangon police station.
Their family has been paid around $4,000 in compensation by the shop owners, who were arrested on human trafficking charges this week.
The girls are among tens of thousands of children from poor rural areas sent to work as domestic helpers for Myanmar’s growing pool of wealthier, urban middle-class households.
The impoverished country is the world’s seventh-worst for child labour, according to risk analysts Verisk Maplecroft, just ahead of India and Liberia.