Top WHO of­fi­cial in Thai­land de­nies maid slav­ery claims

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s top of­fi­cial in Thai­land on Satur­day de­nied beat­ing his Ethiopian do­mes­tic helper and treat­ing her like a mod­ern day slave.

The 25- year- old un­named maid filed a com­plaint with po­lice last month ac­cus­ing Dr. Yonas Tegegn, the WHO’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Thai­land, and his wife of abus­ing her and forc­ing her to work with­out pay for nearly two years.

Po­lice on Wed­nes­day said they would in­ves­ti­gate the al­le­ga­tions and ques­tion the cou­ple, who are also Ethiopian na­tion­als.

In a state­ment re­leased Satur- day, Tegegn de­nied the claims.

“Th­ese ac­cu­sa­tions made against me and my fam­ily are base­less. We deny any wrong­do­ing,” he said in a state­ment emailed to AFP.

Tegegn added that he hoped both the me­dia and Thai­land’s legal sys­tem would “give us a fair chance to clear our name.”

The un­named maid’s lawyer Su­rapong Kongchan­tuk from the Lawyers Coun­cil of Thai­land told AFP ear­lier in the week that she had worked for the fam­ily be­tween July 2013 and March this year.

He al­leged that she had not re­ceived a proper salary dur­ing that time, had to sleep in a room with the fam­ily’s dog, was phys­i­cally abused and was only fed rice.

He said the maid es­caped her em­ploy­ers when she was res­cued by passers-by af­ter a sui­cide at­tempt and is be­ing helped by a lo­cal NGO to pur­sue a case against her em­ploy­ers.

In the state­ment Tegegn said the maid be­gan work­ing with the fam­ily in June 2013 un­til March 8.

“Af­ter that date she was sched­uled to re­turn to her home coun­try Ethiopia,” the state­ment said.

Tegegn added that “at all times we have treated her ( the maid) as a mem­ber of our fam- ily, with all dig­nity, re­spect and con­sid­er­a­tion.”

A WHO of­fi­cial in Bangkok said the or­ga­ni­za­tion was “aware of the al­le­ga­tions in the me­dia about a pri­vate mat­ter be­tween Dr. Yonas and his for­mer em­ployee.”

“WHO is tak­ing this al­le­ga­tions very se­ri­ously, and we are re­view­ing them ac­cord­ing to WHO in­ter­nal pro­ce­dures,” the spokesman said.

Ac­cord­ing to a bi­og­ra­phy on the WHO’s web­site, Tegegn is a doc­tor with 30 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence who has worked for the or­ga­ni­za­tion in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Switzer­land, In­dia and North Korea be­fore his Thai­land post­ing.

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