They're victims already, why humiliate them?

It was a room full of adults, mostly male. Voices gave instructions and made comments, fingers pointed and camera shutters clicked.

  • Published: 21/02/2013 at 09:19 AM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

The 12-year-old girl stood in the middle, almost naked, her only garment her underpants In a room full of adults, mostly male. They stared and pointed at her mutilated body. 

A pair of female hands probed her, parting the hair on her head, revealing more scars. The woman lifted up the unfortunate girl's arms, her legs and her feet, voice describing each injury to the surrounding men. 

Was the adult female a fashion designer explaining her latest wardrobe on a mannequin? 

Later, four men thought it was a good idea to have their picture taken with the Karen girl – one lifted her shirt over her head to show her scared back, one standing over her pointing, one kneeling next to her pointing and the fourth standing to the side staring.  

Did those four men think they were at a motor show? 

Shutters clicking, light bulbs flashing, voices commenting – adult males mostly, strangers all. 

The girl is a Burmese national. Her family escaped poverty and oppression in Myanmar for a better life in Kamphaeng Phet province, Thailand. But instead she was abducted on May 20, 2008 when she was only seven  years old and endured five years of slavery and torture. 

After she made her escape on Jan 31, 2013, she then had to endure humiliation and suffer indignity.

Her five years of captivity reminds us that evil exists – but her few days as a supposedly free girl should also remind us of the carelessness and callousness, the ignorance and idiocy of those who were supposed to help her, those who should know better.  

Story continues below.

            The cruel couple on the run.

It was a Thai couple who enslaved and tortured her. They are Nathi Taeng-on Piyaworatham, 35, and his wife Rattanakon, 33. The husband is an engineer and the wife the owner of a dog grooming shop – middle class, educated people. They have since jumped bail. Police have placed a 100,000 baht bounty on them. 

During captivity, she was kept in a dog cage as punishment – beaten, thrown against walls, cut by scissors and had boiling hot water poured on her body.  

Through the past week, photographs and video recordings of her near naked body, exposing the mutilations, were widely circulated. The reason was not only to sell newspapers and lure cyber traffic, but it was also to bring public awareness of this horrific crime, to incur a sense of outrage. 

Fair enough, her face was never revealed.    

But if we were to watch the video, then we also understand that the girl was made to stand almost naked in a room full of police officers and news reporters, most of them male. 

She was stripped down to only her underpants. They pointed, they jabbed and they probed – in a room full of adults, mostly male, camera shutters clicking and light bulbs flashing. Then four adult males thought it was a wonderful photo opportunity to pose with her, lifting up her shirt and pointing at her scars. 

Sure, we didn’t see her face, but everyone in that room saw her face and much more. They objectified her and humiliated her, all in the name of their profession: police and journalists, doctors and nurses.  

Where is the respect and dignity that we should afford the victim of a crime? 

Why couldn’t the photographs have been taken privately and discreetly by a female social worker? Why couldn’t the  female social worker then have explained the wounds to newsmen planning to use the photographs?  

Those adult figures in question should be shamed and reprimanded, at the very least. 

Police need to take a long and hard look at themselves. To recognise that while high ranking officers deem it dignified and respectable to have their pictures taken as they stand over a pile of drugs or a line-up of suspect criminals, to be splashed across newspaper front pages, victims of abuse may not feel the same way – be they  12, 20 or 60 years-old. 

And on top of this incident, on Monday the Daily News, the nation’s second largest news media outlet, posted on its website a picture of the identification card of a visiting Scottish woman who was raped in a mall at night,  revealing both her face and her name, with the headline – in typical local media fashion – reading like the title of some porn movie. 

The media also need to take a long and hard look at themselves. Learn to stand for something other than advertising baht and circulation numbers. Learn that while ink, paper and the computer are mere objects, the people they write about and take pictures of are actual human beings. 

Doctors and nurses as well, they need to realise that their job is to save lives and heal wounds, physical or emotional, not to exploit their patients for a chance to be on camera, shamelessly posturing for 15 minutes of fame.

Abducted, enslaved and tortured by an educated middle-class couple. Humiliated and objectified by policemen and journalists, doctors and nurses.   

How many times can a victim be abused? Over and over again, until the police move on to the next case and the media to the next story. 

Enough of the pictures of the girl; instead we should keep on posting the pictures of the evil couple who jumped bail. 

About the author

Writer: Voranai Vanijaka
Position: Political and Social Commentator

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