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Two women charged with murder of their Myanmar helper

A mother and her daughter have been charged with the murder of their domestic helper at their Bishan flat on Thursday (July 28).

Prema S Naraynasamy, 58, and Gaiyathiri Murugayan, 36, were accused of killing Piang Ngaih Don, 24, a Myanmar national, in their Bishan flat sometime between Monday (25 July) and Tuesday (26 July) this week.

The court documents did not say if the dead woman had any injuries on her or how the alleged murder was committed.

The police said in a press release on yesterday (28 July) that they have received a call for assistance at about 11am on Tuesday, at a ninth-floor unit, Block 145, Bishan Street 11. It wasn’t said who made the call.

The police found a woman motionless in the flat upon their arrival. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The following day, Prema and Gaiyathiri were arrested.

On Thursday (28 July), the court agreed to the prosecution’s request to remand the pair for further investigations. They will return to court on 4 August.

If convicted, they face the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Reports on the abuse of domestic workers are seemingly on the rise. Last year, two employers were charged in court for starving their 40-year-old domestic workers for almost 1.5 years before she escaped from the condominium. She lost 20kgs from her intital weight of 49kg in January 2013 to 29kg. when she escaped from the condominium she worked in and sought refuge at HOME, a non-profit organisation (NGO) in April 2014.

HOME has seen an increased of domestic workers especially from Myanmar in recent days. The NGO notes that there are a few issues that domestic workers from Myanmar face, such as the poor command of English and lack of preparation before arrival into Singapore.

Many are actually under-aged according to MOM's requirement of being above 23 years, getting pass the checks with fake passports. Piang Ngaih Don, the domestic worker who was murdered, is said to be just 19 years of age instead of 24.

In September 2014, the government of Myanmar imposed a ban on its citizens coming to Singapore for domestic work and it has continued till today. The ban was reportedly due to concerns over ill-treatment and abuse, the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation (MOEAF) said.

Due to the ban, domestic workers can only come into Singapore via unregulated recruitment agencies in Myanmar. While Singapore has said that it does not honor the ban of domestic workers, the approval of work permit of the domestic workers by the Manpower Ministry, means that MOM is working with unregulated recruitment agencies in Myanmar.

Those who know of domestic employees who may be in distress can call:

- CDE’s 24-hour helpline at 1800-2255-233 or
- HOME at 1800-797-7977 (toll-free)