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Malaysian who scalded maid gets shorter jail term

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- A Malaysian court has cut the jail term of a housewife convicted of burning her Indonesian maid with an iron from 18 to 12 years because it was her first offense, an official said Friday.

The case is among the most well-known in a string of maid abuse incidents in recent years that have drawn attention to the risks faced by some 300,000 Indonesian domestic workers in Malaysia.

A district court in November sentenced Yim Pek Ha to 18 years in prison for using hot water in 2004 to scald her then teenage maid, Nirmala Bonat, and burning her with an iron.

The case sparked public outrage after newspapers at the time showed grisly photographs of Nirmala, now 24, with severe burns over her body.

Yim, 41, appealed the decision, and the High Court on Thursday reduced her sentence by six years because she was a first-time offender and had four young children, a court official said on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to make public statements.

Yim has not started serving the sentence because she is expected to appeal to Malaysia's Court of Appeals.

Widyarka Ryanata, an Indonesian Embassy spokesman, said officials would monitor the appeal, adding that Indonesia hopes the final verdict would be “fair enough.”

He declined to elaborate because the case was still pending in the courts.

Mistreatment of maids has occasionally marred ties between Indonesia and Malaysia. Hundreds of maids complain to Indonesia's embassy every year of unpaid salaries, overwork and sometimes physical abuse.

Indonesia stopped sending new maids to Malaysia in June because of concerns about their welfare.

The Malaysian government has since pledged to protect domestic workers better and to prosecute those who physically abuse them.

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