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04 Oct 2002 00:00
In a new twist to the Myanmar (formerly Burma) embassy child sex scandal, information has emerged that the 15-year-old Asian girl at the centre of the saga was brought into the country as a “domestic worker” for the Myanmar ambassador, U Tin Latt.
At the same time it has emerged that diplomats from the Myanmar embassy in Pretoria may have flouted South Africa’s protocol procedures in their attempt to get the girl returned to them by the police.
Last week the Mail & Guardian reported that the South African police had launched a high-level probe into allegations of sex slavery and prostitution at the embassy after the girl informed them that she had been sexually and physically abused there.
According to a police report the Pretoria district surgeon who examined the girl—who Myanmar embassy officials this week described as “a private employee to the ambassador”—found that she had been “sexually abused and possibly misused for the purpose of prostitution”.
This week the M&G obtained documents that show the girl was issued with a South African “courtesy visa” to work as a domestic worker for the ambassador.
Also this week the Myanmar embassy wrote a lengthy letter to the M&G to put the alleged sexual abuse “in true perspectives”.
“The embassy has a staff of four males and two locals and no Asian girl working.
The girl in question has not even set foot on the premises of the embassy since her arrival in the Republic of South Africa on 31 October 2001,” the embassy wrote.
The embassy, however, also confirmed that the girl worked as a domestic “helper” at the Myanmar ambassador’s residence in Pretoria’s plush suburb of Waterkloof.
The embassy accused the M&G of publishing unsubstantiated allegations. It also claimed that it was unaware of a police investigation into the matter.
Speaking to the M&G this week Hla Myint, minister counsellor at the embassy, said the girl in question was “a private employee for the ambassador”. Asked why Myanmar embassy diplomats were involved in the ambassador’s private matter, Myint said the embassy was not aware that the girl had informed police that she was sexually abused there until the matter was raised by the M&G.
In its letter to the M&G the Myanmar embassy said the girl disappeared from the ambassador’s residence on September 7 and was reported missing the same day at the Brooklyn police station. On September 18, the letter states, the embassy was informed that the girl had been found and kept at the Eersterust police station.
“Some embassy staff went to the station to ascertain the girl’s identity and, without being allowed to meet the girl, asked to present proof of her legal entry into RSA,” the letter says.
A protocol official at the Department of Foreign Affairs this week said the Myanmar diplomats appear to have breached diplomatic protocols by dealing and communicating directly with the South African police.
When asked about this Myint was vague. He said his diplomats only formally communicated with the police after they demanded proof of the girl’s legal entry into the country.
The Department of Foreign Affairs was not available for comment at the time of going to press.
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