Senior WHO staffer in Thailand accused of slavery

Senior WHO staffer in Thailand accused of slavery

Rights lawyer Surapong Kongchantuk says an Ethiopian maid is being helped in her quest for justice against a family who detained her.
Rights lawyer Surapong Kongchantuk says an Ethiopian maid is being helped in her quest for justice against a family who detained her.

The Lawyers Council of Thailand has come to the aid of an Ethiopian maid who claims she was a slave for a fellow countryman working as a high-level World Health Organisation official in Thailand.

Surapong Kongchantuk, head of the Lawyers Council of Thailand's human rights subcommittee, said on Wednesday the council was helping "Annet", the 24-year-old Ethiopian who recently escaped from her employer's residence in Nonthaburi province.

The woman told police in Pakkret district of Nonthaburi that the family of her Ethiopian employer had detained, abused and assaulted her and taken her passport.

She refused to meet the press on Wednesday because of fears for her safety.

Kohnwilai Teppunkoonngam, a council lawyer, said Annet was an ethnic Ethiopian of the Amhara group and had been raped and had a child in her homeland. Her parents died when she was five years old.

The Ethiopian wife of the WHO official, who had recruited her through her uncle, said her husband had a good job and promised to pay her 2,000 birr (about 3,000 baht) a month, give her weekend holidays and introduce her to high-class Ethiopians in Thailand.

She started to work for the family who had two children in Thailand in July 2013. She claims she has never received any pay and the family gave her uncle 5,000 birr (about 8,000 baht) after the first five months of service.

She worked seven days a week from 5am until midnight, had only rice for meals, slept in a small room with the family's big pet dog, did not have an electric fan or a mosquito net, and was threatened not to escape.

The lawyers' council withheld the name of the official.


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