Unable to move except for her head, Thuzar Myint lies motionless in the hospital bed. The bones in her right leg and back are broken and the bones on the left side of her body are cracked.
“I was unconscious for two weeks. Even now, three months later, my condition is not good. My fingers are still sore and I can’t hold anything,” she said.
On September 19, Thuzar Myint fell from the fifth floor of a building in Singapore where she had been working as a maid for three months.
“Some people think I jumped from the fifth floor to commit suicide. I didn’t. I was just trying to escape from my work, which was the same as being in hell,” she said.
Sadly, Thuzar Myint’s story is just one of many told by Myanmar domestic workers who have suffered abuse and exploitation at the hands of their employers. In September 2014, the Myanmar government banned agencies from sending Myanmar citizens to Singapore as domestic workers following a series of scandals about the abuse of migrant workers engaged in such jobs.
Agents hiring domestic workers from Myanmar operate a debt bondage system. The initial cost of a woman’s air ticket, visa and accommodation expenses is paid by the agent, and she is then expected to work until she has paid off her debt. What this often means, however, is that women are made to work for 6-12 months without pay, leaving them with nothing to send back to their families. Most women and girls who leave Myanmar to work in Singapore don’t understand this system of debt bondage, which is akin to slavery.
According to Singapore law, employers can send workers back to Myanmar without reason or pay. Even if migrant workers are sent home, however, agents still force them to pay off their debts.
Many domestic workers like Ma Wutyee, however, feel they have no choice but to continue being exploited.
“I don’t want to, but I have to go back to Singapore for my daughter’s future,” she said.