Thai police said Wednesday they are investigating a senior Bangkok-based World Health Organization official and his wife after their Ethiopian maid accused them of modern-day slavery and physical abuse.
The 25-year-old maid filed a complaint last month accusing her employers of beating her and forcing her to work without pay for nearly two years at their residence in a plush expat colony in Nonthaburi, a northern satellite city of Bangkok, police said.
“They (the official and his wife) have been accused of human trafficking, tricking her to work, failing to pay her and abuse,” Police Colonel Mana Tienmaungpak, head of investigations at Pakkred police station in Nonthaburi, told AFP.
He added that no charges have been pressed against the couple but they will be called in for questioning next week.
The maid’s lawyer Surapong Kongchantuk from the Lawyers Council of Thailand confirmed his client had worked for a “high-ranking WHO representative” from July 2013 until early March.
“She did not receive a salary. She had to start working at 5 am through to midnight everyday. She had to spend nights in a small room outside with a dog. She ate only rice and could not associate with any other people,” he told AFP.
He added that she had been promised a monthly wage of 3,000 baht ($92) which never materialised.
The maid finally escaped her employers when she was rescued by passers-by after a suicide attempt and is being helped by a local NGO to pursue a case against her employers, Surapong added.
A WHO spokeswoman in Bangkok confirmed the organisation was aware of the accusations.
“WHO has been informed about the allegations in the media related to a private matter between a WHO employee in Thailand and an individual working at his residence. WHO is looking into the matter,” she said.