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Malaysian jailed for maid attacks

On November 29, 2008

A former Malaysian flight attendant who repeatedly scalded her Indonesian maid has been jailed by a court in the capital Kuala Lumpur for 18 years.

The court convicted Yim Pek Ha, 40, of three attacks on Nirmala Bonat using boiling water and a hot iron.

Ms Bonat, who was 19 at the time, testified that she had been beaten and burnt for making mistakes.

The case provoked national outrage in Malaysia after newspapers published pictures of her injuries.

It brought attention to the situation of Indonesian migrant domestic workers.

The mother-of-four's defence team, which pleaded unsuccessfully that the injuries were self-inflicted, plans to appeal against the sentence.

Eka Suripto, an Indonesian diplomat in Kuala Lumpur, welcomed the verdict "as a deterrent to future cases".

'Sadistic behaviour'

Judge Akhtar Tahir found Yim guilty of using dangerous weapons to inflict injury on Nirmala Bonat at her Kuala Lumpur home on three separate occasions.

Saying that he wanted to impose a "deterrent sentence" to show that "sadistic behaviour... cannot be tolerated in a civil society", he ordered her to start serving the sentence immediately.

In her testimony, Ms Bonat said that on one occasion Yim had taken a hot iron and pressed it against her breasts after complaining that clothes had not been properly ironed.

The maltreatment came to light after a security guard at the condominium where she lived found her crying and saw injuries to her face.

She has since returned to her family home in Indonesia.

In court on Thursday, Yim reportedly sobbed uncontrollably and hugged her family after the judge read his verdict.

Tens of thousands of foreigners are believed to work in Malaysia as domestic servants, many of them from Indonesia, and revelations about abuses have strained relations between the two countries.

At the time of the assaults on Ms Bonat, the country was the second largest destination for Indonesian maids after Saudi Arabia.


Countries in the Middle East have yet to enforce harsher penalties and tougher legislation to protect domestic workers from abusive employers. We hope that this will come to an end soon.