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Tortured slave girl learns to smile again

Feb 12. 2013
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Sympathy and support is pouring in for a Karen girl who was allegedly kidnapped, enslaved, tortured and scarred over half of her body by a couple in Kamphaeng Phet.

Her alleged attackers, Natee Taeng-orn and Rattanakorn Piyaworatham, have denied any wrongdoing and been released on bail. According to neighbours, the couple has not been seen in their neighbourhood since February 7.

The young victim told police that for about five years she had to do housework without any pay and help Rattanakorn with bathing dogs at her shop. When the girl made a mistake, she was locked up in a cage and hot water was poured on her.

Since being released, the 12-year-old victim has appeared in front of many news cameras. Her scars have attracted overwhelming public sympathy. But officials have cautioned against showing her scantily clothed body to the public because that could constitute a violation of her human rights.

“Having her wear only underpants while photos and videos were being taken could cause pressure and traumatise her [further],” Sanphasit Koompraphant, a children’s rights activist, said.

“Doing so is considered against norms for child victims and witnesses under the protection of the United Nations.”

But by yesterday, officials at the Kamphaeng Phet Home for Children and Families said the girl had started to smile again.

“At first, she was depressed, shaken and quiet,” an official said.

Deputy Kamphaeng Phet Governor Watcharin Thongsakul yesterday brought doctors to the girl. An initial examination showed more than half of her skin surface sustained damages. In some parts, the damage had reached bone level.

“We will provide treatment for her. If necessary, we will also refer her to a more specialised medical facility,” Kamphaeng Phet Hospital’s director Kamchai Rangsimanpaiboon said.

The Kamphaeng Phet Home for Children and Families said the Rotary Club of Bangkok’s Klong Toei had offered to pay for the treatment too.

Kamchai also disclosed that several foundations had stepped forward to help the young girl.

“We will ensure that she gets protection and rehabilitation,” he said.

He added that his provincial authority would also work on the prosecution of her attackers.

Kamchai said the suspects would face an additional charge of violating the 1998 Labour Protection Act. They have already been charged with assault and illegal detention.

Labour Protection and Welfare Department director-general Pakorn Amorncheewin said if convicted of using child labour, the couple would face a maximum fine of Bt200,000 and up to one year in jail. He said the couple could also be required to pay the girl for the work she had done for them over the past five years.

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