AFP – The World Health Organisation’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 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 Saturday, Dr 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.
Dr 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 2014.
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.
Dr Tegegn added that “at all times we have treated her (the maid) as a member of our family, with all dignity, respect and consideration”.
Labour rights group submitted an open letter to the WHO on Friday, following allegations that Dr Tegegn treated his former housemaid like a slave.
A WHO official in Bangkok said the organisation 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, Dr Tegegn is a doctor with 30 years’ experience who has worked for the organisation in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Switzerland, India and North Korea before his Thailand posting.
(BANGKOK POST) – Police summons a senior World Health Organisation (WHO) official after his former maid accused him of keeping her in slave-like conditions.
After escaping from her employer, Ethiopian housemaid Annet (not her real name), aged 24, reported Yonas Tegegn and his wife to Nonthaburi’s Pak Kred police station on March 18, and again on Tuesday.
She was assisted by a human rights sub-committee under the Lawyers Council of Thailand.
Pol Col Mana Tienmaungpak of Pak Kret police, said officers would call Dr Tegegn in for questioning next week.
His former maid was accompanied by a local NGO to file another complaint with Lawyers Council of Thailand’s human rights advocate Surapong Kongchantuk.
Mr Surapong accused Dr Tegegn, who is also an Ethiopian national, and his wife of detaining the former maid and treating her as a slave.
He also accused them of human trafficking.
According to Mr Surapong, Annet met the couple through an agent in Ethiopia in 2011, before agreeing in 2012 to work for them if they moved to Thailand in July the following year.
The couple agreed to pay 2,000 birr (about 3,000 baht) a month to Annet’s family in Ethiopia, but they received only 5,000 birr for the first five months of her employment, said Mr Surapong. Neither Annet or her family has been paid since.
Annet said the couple made her work from 5am until midnight every day, and did not give her any holiday or overtime payment and confiscated her passport, Mr Surapong said. They also allegedly did not give her proper meals and provided a small room for her to live which she shared with a dog.
She fled her employers’ house on March 8, after a year and seven months there, and was introduced to a local NGO by an Ethiopian man who found her crying on the street.
Annet has scars on her body, allegedly from torture by her employers.
The Bangkok Post called Dr Tegegn’s WHO office Wednesday but his office staff said he was not available for comment.