Employers accused of underfeeding maid for 15 months, causing her to go from 49kg to 29kg

Lim Choon Hong (right) and Chong Sui Foon, who failed to provide their former domestic worker with adequate food. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW
Filipino maid Thelma Oyasan Gawidan (above) dropped from 49kg to 29kg over 15 months as a result of her employers not giving her adequate food. ST PHOTHO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean couple claimed trial on Monday (Dec 14) to charges of failing to provide their former Filipino domestic worker with adequate food, causing her weight to drop by 20kg over a 15-month period.

Ms Thelma Oyasan Gawidan, 40, weighed just 29kg when she was admitted to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) in April last year, compared to 49 kg in Jan 2013.

Her former employer, Lim Choon Hong, 47, faces one charge of contravening Condition 1 in Part 1 of the Fourth Schedule to the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations 2012.

Lim's wife, Chong Sui Foon, 47, faces a count of abetting Lim in committing the offence.

A district court heard that Ms Thelma ran away from Lim's condominium on April 18 last year, and sought refuge at a shelter run by the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home).

Home then reported Ms Thelma's complaints of weight loss, insufficient rest and food, and unacceptable sleeping space to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

When MOM investigation officer Christina Quek interviewed her on April 21, Ms Thelma was observed to be "emotional" and "about to cry" when questioned about her food, sleep, and how her employers treated her.

Ms Thelma said she was given two meals a day, with each ration consisting of instant noodles and a slice of bread.

She claimed that she was made to sleep in a storeroom, and instructed to sleep at odd hours of the day such as at 11am.

She was allowed to bathe only once or twice a week, at a public toilet in her employer's condominium. Chong would also watch her shower, as the latter "did not want her to bathe too long," Ms Quek said.

Ms Thelma also claimed that she was not allowed to brush her teeth.

Ms Quek later asked Home to send Ms Thelma for a medical check up at a general practitioner, and later at a hospital.

Although Lim footed the GP's bill, he refused to pay for Ms Thelma's hospital bill as he said she "is not sick", Ms Quek said.

TTSH doctor Lin Huiyu, who attended to Ms Thelma after she was taken to the hospital's emergency department by Home on April 29 told the court that she had said she was given insufficient food.

She also complained of difficulty sleeping, and had not had her menses for about a year.

Dr Lin said Ms Thelma also told doctors that she was given two meals a day, and ate only of bread and instant noodles.

At a review at the hospital in June last year, after she was discharged, she weighed 43kg.

Ms Thelma is expected to take the witness stand in the afternoon.

If convicted, Lim and Chong both face a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.

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