Sun, Apr 05, 2015 - Page 5 News List

WHO Thailand official rejects slavery charges


The WHO’s top official in Thailand yesterday rejected claims that he beat his Ethiopian domestic helper and treated her like a slave.

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

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

In a statement released yesterday, Tegegn dismissed the claims.

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

Tegegn added that he hoped that media outlets 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, said that the claimant worked for the family between July 2013 and last month.

He said 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 fed only rice.

He said the maid escaped her former employers when she was rescued by passers-by after a suicide attempt, adding that a local non-governmental organization is helping her to pursue her case.

In the statement, Tegegn said the maid worked with the family from June 2013 to March 8.

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

“At all times we have treated her [the maid] as a member of our family, with all dignity, respect and consideration,” Tegegn added.

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.”

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

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

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