Singapore

Maid weighed 29kg when she ran away

Couple in court for failing to provide maid with enough food over 15 months

They gave her instant noodles and sometimes bread, twice a day, for meals.

She was allowed to bathe only once or twice a week - at a public toilet in her employer's Orchard Road condominium.

Filipino maid Thelma Oyasan Gawidan, 40, lost so much weight that she was merely 29kg when she was admitted to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) in April last year.

She weighed 49kg in January 2013, when she first started working for the couple.

The court heard this yesterday on the first day of the trial of a Singaporean couple facing charges of failing to provide their former maid with adequate food over a 15-month period, causing the weight loss, The Straits Times reported.

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.

Ms Thelma took the stand yesterday afternoon.

Guided by Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Soo Tet, the petite woman told the court how the couple asked her to work odd hours, telling her to sleep in the storeroom in the day and putting her to work overnight, Channel News Asia reported.

She said that on one occasion, she woke up on a Monday at 7pm and was made to work without rest till Wednesday.

Recalling how she was "shivering from hunger", Ms Thelma said Chong would sometimes add some meat and vegetables - "one slice of tomato... or cucumber" - to her food.

"When I was still hungry, I would ask for more. Sometimes she would give me more but the next meal I would get less", she added.

NEVER ALLOWED

The maid told the court that she was never allowed to eat out with the family. Even when Lim and Chong took their three children for a staycation at Raffles Hotel, they packed instant noodles and bread for Ms Thelma.

"I became skinny. I didn't recognise myself when I looked in the mirror," said Ms Thelma, who broke down and cried at one point.

She eventually ran away from her employers 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 and sleep, and how her employers treated her, reported The Straits Times.

Ms Quek asked Home to send Ms Thelma for a medical check-up at a general practitioner's clinic and later at a hospital.

Although Lim paid the general practitioner'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 Ms Thelma had said she was given insufficient food.

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

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

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

SingaporeDomestic WorkerabuseUncategorisedfoodChong Sui FoonparentingMinistry of ManpowerPhilippines