Defence says she killed Singapore employer over ill-treatment With Malaysians reeling from the horrific abuse of a maid in recent days, neighbouring Singapore has also been gripped by a trial involving allegations of abuse against a foreign domestic helper. But in this case, it is the maid who is on trial. Sundarti Supriayanto, a 23-year-old Indonesian, is accused of murdering her employer, Angie Ng, and her three-year-old daughter two years ago. Sundarti's defence maintains Ng died only after her maid reacted to a series of humiliating acts, including being deprived of food, having soiled tissues flung at her and being told to eat faeces. And while Singapore has taken steps to crack down on abuse, the trial is unfolding when officials have launched a campaign to have its citizens treat their maids better. In January, acting manpower minister Ng Eng Hen said he would take a tough line against employers who endangered the lives of maids. 'If you lay a finger on her, you go to jail. No arguments,' he said. Singapore employs about 140,000 foreign domestic workers, making it one of the world's top destinations from throughout the region. About 60,000 come from Indonesia, a similar number from the Philippines, and smaller numbers from Malaysia and South Asia. But there is no standardised employment contract and domestic workers are not covered by employment laws. According to a survey in the Straits Times newspaper, one in seven Singaporean families have a live-in maid. Many work 15 to 16-hour days, earning about S$260 (HK$1,188) per month, although there is no guaranteed minimum salary and half do not get a single day off per month. From January 2001 to June last year, 23 employers were jailed for abusing maids and in one of the most shocking cases, an Indonesian died after being kicked in the stomach. An investigation found she had also been starved, burned on the lips and hands with cigarettes, scalded with hot water, punched in the face and whipped with a cane. Her employer, a 47-year-old tour guide, was sentenced to 18 years in jail and 12 strokes of the cane. Along with tougher penalties for abusers, Singapore has recently announced an accreditation programme for more than 700 maid-recruiting agencies and a free mediation service for maids who have conflicts with their employers. And since April, both new maids and first-time employers must take a half-day orientation course. But violent abuse is not the only hazard maids face in Singapore. Many have just arrived from rural villages and are unaccustomed to high-rise apartments. Since 1999, nearly 100 maids - almost all Indonesians - have plunged to their deaths while hanging out laundry or washing windows. 'The death toll of Indonesian maids is quite high and we are concerned about this,' said Chalief Akbar, a spokesman for the Indonesian embassy. As a result, Indonesia is building an orientation centre, with Singaporean help, on the island of Batam to make sure prospective maids are familiar with typical Singapore dwellings. In general, however, Mr Chalief said Singapore was 'okay' relative to other countries where Indonesian domestic workers seek employment, such as those in the Middle East. Of the five to 10 maids who come to the embassy each day with employment problems, he said, most are 'simple cases of personal conflict not involving physical abuse'.