'Work' delays WHO chief's police visit

'Work' delays WHO chief's police visit

Ethiopian expats give Tegegn full backing

Dr Yonas Tegegn, the World Health Organisation's (WHO) representative in Thailand, has retained a Thai lawyer, who denied charges he kept his maid as a slave - but admitted he has never paid the woman. (File photo by Ministry of Public Health)
Dr Yonas Tegegn, the World Health Organisation's (WHO) representative in Thailand, has retained a Thai lawyer, who denied charges he kept his maid as a slave - but admitted he has never paid the woman. (File photo by Ministry of Public Health)

The World Health Organisation's (WHO) representative in Thailand Yonas Tegegn has asked to delay until Friday reporting to police in Nonthaburi's Pak Kret district to answer allegations of abusing his domestic helper.

He was scheduled to report Monday, a national holiday for Chakri  Day, but said he was too busy at work.

Dr Tegegn's Thai lawyer Kittiphum Sinpipatporn sought permission to delay the interview.

"He has always treated his Ethiopian housekeeper with dignity and considered her a part of his family. He respects human rights," Mr Kittiphum said, denying all allegations on behalf of his client.

The lawyer said Dr Tegegn and his employee, identified only as Annet, agreed she would be paid US$100 (about 3,000 baht) a month.

However, Annet has not been paid in full for the one year and eight months she has been here.

She would receive all her wages under the two-year contract when it expires next September, the lawyer said.

Her employers have not paid her wages yet because she said she wanted to transfer her earnings to her family in Ethiopia.

She does not have a bank account in Thailand, so she left her money with her employer and told him she would collect the outstanding sum before she returns home.

It is possible that Annet was upset when Dr Tegegn decided not to extend her contract, and decided to file a complaint against his family as revenge, Mr Kittiphum said.

Dr Tegegn and his wife did not seize Annet's passport as was claimed by the maid and the Lawyers Council of Thailand), he added.

Dr Tegegn's wife, Serkalem Guadi, lodged a complaint with Pak Kret police after Annet had been missing for five days.

Mrs Guadi gave the maid's passport to police to help with their search. Only Dr Tegegn can explain the reason behind this private conflict, the lawyer said.

Mr Kittiphum insisted Dr Tegegn and his family are innocent.

The WHO chief will continue to cooperate with police.

The family is willing to give any information needed because they are confident they have done nothing against the law.

Pol Col Mana Tienmaungpak, the chief investigator at Pak Kret station, said the Foreign Ministry confirmed the Ethiopian housekeeper entered the country legally.

Her entry has also been recognised by the WHO office.

"This case cannot be considered human trafficking because her entry was legal," Pol Col Mana said.

Pol Col Mana also received word from the Foreign Ministry that Dr Tegegn has diplomatic immunity. However, his wife, who is also accused of abusing Annet, does not have immunity. 

"At this stage, Dr Tegegn is innocent, and as long as the investigation is still under way, justice must be given to both parties," Pol Col Mana said.

Police have interviewed Dr Tegegn's neighbours and security guard, but no one has admitted to witnessing any abuse or wrongdoing.

"His house is located just 20 metres from the guard's house. If there was something wrong taking place, someone would have noticed," Pol Col Mana said.

Representatives from the Ethiopian community visited Pak Kret police Monday. They handed over letters backing the WHO chief.

"Dr Tegegn is a humble gentleman. Regardless of his prominent position at the WHO, he treats everyone with due respect. He is a man of integrity. The same can be said of his wife. She is sociable, joyous and always ready to help others," said one letter.

The WHO issued a statement saying it that it reaffirmed its willingness to facilitate the investigation by the authorities into the accusations faced by Dr Tegegn.

Do you like the content of this article?
COMMENT (4)

Chinese military: US plane in Taiwan Strait endangered peace

SHANGHAI: China's military said on Saturday that the recent fly through of a United States maritime plane through the Taiwan Strait deliberately disrupted the regional situation and endangered peace and stability.

10:58

Korat villages hit by storm

NAKHON RATCHASIMA: A rainstorm damaged 48 houses and many crop fields in three villages of this northeastern province on Friday evening.

10:48

Nonbinary airline passengers ask: What’s gender got to do with it?

In late May, chef Silver Cousler flew to Miami from Asheville, North Carolina, to have a “last hurrah” party before getting married and a new restaurant opening. While booking the flight, Cousler, who identifies as nonbinary and uses the pronoun “they,” felt like they had “a split-personality disorder” when the Delta Air Lines website required them to choose either “male” or “female.”

08:16