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Singaporean who murdered maid should face heavier penalties, authorities say

Singapore is home to about 250,000 foreign domestic workers from neighboring Southeast Asian nations. File Photo by Jonathan Drake/EPA
Singapore is home to about 250,000 foreign domestic workers from neighboring Southeast Asian nations. File Photo by Jonathan Drake/EPA

Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Singaporean authorities are seeking the highest charges against a local woman who allegedly beat, immolated and threw her Myanmar housemaid "like a ragdoll" before the victim died in 2016.

Singapore's Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said Thursday that the state's attorney general has instructed prosecutors to press for the highest possible charges of murder against Gaiyathiri Murugayan, the defendant, Channel News Asia reported.

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The statement comes after Murugayan, 40, pleaded guilty Tuesday to 28 charges including homicide and "causing grievous hurt by starvation," according to the report.

The victim, Piang Ngaih Don, reportedly was punched and trampled in Murugayan's household before being choked to death.

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The BBC reported Thursday that Piang either had been starved or suffered from malnutrition after her meals were limited to bread dipped in water, cold food and small servings of rice. Piang lost 33 pounds in 14 months, the report said.

Murugayan has a depressive disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Singapore's High Court said the defendant qualifies for "diminished responsibility" and reduced murder charges.

The defendant's husband also has been charged with assault. Kevin Chelvam, a police officer, reportedly hit Piang with a bat and then lied to law enforcement. Chelvam has been suspended, according to CNA.

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Piang was one of 250,000 foreign domestic workers in Singapore when she arrived in the country in 2015. Her employer abused her on the grounds that the housemaid was "slow, unhygienic and ate too much," and burned her with a clothing iron, according to the BBC.

Under Singaporean law, domestic workers in the country are required to undergo medical exams every six months, Piang received a check-up in January 2016, but her condition did not raise concerns despite a runny nose, cough and swollen legs, CNA reported.

Abuse of housemaids has been reported previously in Singapore. A local couple in 2017 was jailed for starving their Filipino domestic worker, and another couple was jailed in 2019 for abusing a worker from Myanmar. Other housemaids have said they ate dog food to survive, according to the BBC.

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