In early 2013, a horrific story emerged of a 12-year-old ethnic Karen girl who had been kidnapped, abused, and kept as a slave in Kamphaeng Phet by a wealthy Thai couple for five years. Now, the Thai courts have ruled that the couple must compensate the girl with 4.6 million baht, despite the fact that they still remain on the run.
The girl, Air, was abducted when she was only 7 years old from a sugarcane field where her migrant worker parents were employed. She told authorities that the couple who kidnapped her had owned a nearby field, and beckoned her to come to their house, where they then enslaved her.
Air (in the cap) with other girls at Kamphaeng Phet’s Children and Families shelter.
During the five years that followed, the young girl forced to work as a maid for the couple, where she lived in a dog kennel, was scalded with hot water, and beaten on a daily basis. She has now received corrective surgery for one of her arms, which are both semi-paralysed from her severe injuries, but will still suffer from lifelong health problems from the injuries inflicted upon her. While disfiguring physical scars remain all over her body, the girl has been receiving special treatment for her psychological scars and mental trauma caused by the prolonged abuse.
She had managed to escape once before, only to be returned to the house by Thai police. Of course, she was then subjected to extremely cruel abuse by the angered couple. Finally, she escaped on 31st January 2013, and begged her neighbours to help her find safety. Once the police were alerted, they arrested the couple six days later, but denied all accusations against them, and were shortly released on bail. They have not been seen or heard of since.
The court, who tried the couple in absentia, ruled that they must pay her 4,603,233 baht as compensation. That is around 300,000 baht for medical treatment, 800,000 for future medical treatment, 500,000 for transportation back and forth to Bangkok for treatment, 600,000 for pain and suffering, 700,000 for destroying her ability to reproduce, and another 700,000 for “loss of beauty”. The girl will also receive 1 million baht because she is now considered disabled and unable to work for at least 50 years.
The Karen Network condemned the abuse and reached out to Thai police and former PM Yingluck for justice.
The accused are Mr. Nathee Taeng-orn (35), an engineer at a factory, and Ms. Rattanakorn Piyavoratharm (33), an owner of a dog-grooming shop. They both face very serious charges once captured, including child abuse, kidnapping a child, child labour, conspiracy and human trafficking. They could end up facing lifetime prison sentences for their combined crimes.
But some are sceptical that the accused will ever be brought to justice, as this report by The Irrawaddy states: “It remains unclear why the Thai prosecutor has not yet opened a criminal case to prosecute those responsible for the horrific abuse of the child, but her status as an unregistered migrant from Burma could have affected the case as Thai authorities are sometimes loath to act in defense of migrants.”
This means that Air might never see this monetary compensation for suffering through those years of daily torture. The Human Rights Foundation, who have been aiding Air in her case against her abusers, released a statement detailing the ruling by the court. After listing the money owed to Air, they state: “However, the exact amount to be received by the damaged parties shall be dependent on further executions in order to acquire assets belonging to the employers and to provide the compensation to the plaintiff as ruled by the Court.”
We will keep readers updated about the case and the couple at large.