Thursday, May 9, 2013

1410. Myanmar Stories - The maid ran away again

tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)TOA PAYOH VETS

Date:   11 May, 2013  
Focus: Small animals - dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs & rabbits
The maid ran away again  
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
Date:   11 May, 2013 
Be Kind To Pets
Veterinary Education
Project 2010-0129

Thursday, May 9, 2013

1410. Myanmar Stories - The maid ran away again

The following are text messages from Swee Swee, a 27-year-old Myanmar maid to her employer, Mrs Robinson and her employment agent, Aunty Khin:

Message 1
I went to kill my self .I wernt to die mardam.Please i went to stay along .Icamback later .Not finish rezult .please sorry nor i very sorry. Yes i go  aunty khin office.
(From: Mrs Robinson to Khin Khin -  This is a message from Swee Swee!)

Message 2
Unty ye,u went to inform police me i go ready .But now  i have very inportant problem .This one finish i can go.I went to die .Iwent to run away . Everybody cant help me . I went to killy self .
(From: Khin Khin)

Message 3
later i comong ur office. I explain  all unty .I coming rearly.Now i go hospital waiting me .nor unty.
(From: Khin Khin) Message 4
Ko gyi i coming now .
Now i    near sea.I went to die.
(From: Khin Khin)

I had met Swee Swee 3 months ago when she got the job as a domestic worker through Khin Khin Employment Agency. I was visiting Khin Khin at her office.

Swee Swee had worked for a Singaporean employer before and her conversational English was good. The new employer, Mrs Robinson was a very kind Caucasian lady who paid Swee Swee $550/month, one Saturday off per week and some time off during the weekdays. There was another senior maid who took off on Sundays. The job was to look after the aged mother and do house-work. The Caucasian couple travelled overseas most of the time and so there was practically much free time for two maids.

Singaporean employers typically pay around $300/month with only one day off per month. The asking salary nowadays is now $450. So Swee Swee had a higher salary, a dream job and she was most happy. She earned more than her mother who worked as a teacher in Myanmar. But love came in like a ferocious lion.

From what I was told, Swee Swee thought she was pregnant. She had at least one male friend in Singapore. "But the friend she named as responsible for her pregnancy said it was not him," Khin Khin told me. "He said Swee Swee was having menses last month and so he could not be the father!"

Khin Khin advised Mrs Robinson to terminate Swee Swee's services in order not to lose the bond. Employers have to pay $5000 if the maid disappears. Swee Swee came back and Mrs Robinson forgave her and said: "After all, she is young and young ones make mistakes. We were all young once."

But 5 days later, Swee Swee disappeared again. It was hard to contact her as she would not answer her handphone. This time, Mrs Robinson reluctantly terminated her services.

I had come back from a holiday in Europe and visited Khin Khin at her office on May 10, 2013. "Lots of problems in the office," Khin Khin always complain about problems.
I always say: "If an employment agency is so easy to operate, why are so many people employees? All Singaporeans will open employment agencies instead of working for others since there are no problems. All business owners have work and staff problems till they go bankrupt or die. Why don't you just go back to Yangon and retire as a lady of leisure? You don't need the money."

Three months ago, Swee Swee had shown me her phone images of her family, her friends and house in the Irrawaddy Basin when I first met her at the employment agency. She was a personable short delicate-framed lady, the type of personality and  happy facial features that everybody likes.

"The man does not love you. Now you lose your job," I said to her as she, Khin Khin and the manager sat in my car on the way back to Mrs Robinson's condo in the prime district 9 of Singapore.

Swee Swee rubbed her nose and shook her head saying: "I don't care." She must be glad as she was not pregnant. She had asked Aunty Khin for money to buy the pads earlier in the day, speaking Myanmarese. She was wearing shorts as is the common practice with the young ladies of Singapore.  "Go and ask Aunty May for a longzhi (sarong)," Khin Khin gave her ten dollars."

"Aunty May will charge her," I know Aunty May needs to charge for services since her business of employment agency and organising meetings and publishing were not making much money and rentals had gone up. A few businesses including employment agencies, trading companies and the seamstress shop had closed in this mall.

"No," Khin Khin said.
As I was going back to the Surgery at 5.30 pm to continue my consultation, taking over Dr Daniel, Khin Khin, her manager and Swee Swee hitched a ride from me to Mrs Robinson's condo. 

The storm clouds had burst as if the skies were weeping for the runaway maid who lost a very good job in the name of romantic love. Black clouds poured buckets of water on my windscreen. Visibility was 1 metre ahead but I knew where the condo was as I had been in this Cairnhill Road condo built some 20 years ago. "You have such a large maid's room in this type of old condo," I said to Swee Swee. "Other maids have to live with the family members or in a small utility room just enough for a bed. In Hongkong, some live in the living room."

"She even has a big LED TV inside her room," Khin Khin laughed. This was a luxury job at $550/month, one Saturday off/week and freedom to go out after work to visit Aunty Khin.

But materialism lost to romanticism just after 3 months as a maid in Singapore.  

The next day, she would be escorted back to the airport by Khin Khin's manager on a one-way ticket to Yangon. She would then take a bus to the Irrawaday village and be welcome home. For young ones with family support especially for Singaporeans from the middle- and higher- income families, the motivation to earn more and be independent is not as much as for those who are hungry and ambitious to make a living and become an expert. The same situation applies to other countries too and much family funds are wasted sending the young ones overseas to work or study to improve their station in life.
P.S. Many Singaporean employers may sound heartless as they only permit their maids out once a month as they will lose their $5,000 bond if the maids run away. There are men who befriend such maids on their days off and so it is hard for the young maids to resist when love comes out of the blue. Many have lost their jobs in the name of love.
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