SINGAPORE: A Singaporean couple accused of starving their Filipino maid until she weighed just 29kg pleaded guilty on Wednesday (Mar 23).
Lim Choon Hong and his wife Chong Sui Foon, both 47, each faced one charge under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act for failing to provide enough food to Ms Thelma Oyasan Gawidan, who lost almost 20kg over 15 months while working for the couple.
Ms Thelma told of being given slices of white bread and instant noodles to eat twice a day for over a year, and of being allowed to shower just once or twice a week in a public toilet. The 40-year-old was also made to sleep odd hours in a storeroom and put to work overnight, she said.
The court heard Ms Thelma first noticed her weight loss two weeks after she started working for the Lim household. Other diminished physical attributes include lost strength and hair loss due to malnutrition.
Ms Thelma asked Chong for more food as she was constantly hungry, but Chong often did not accede to the maid’s requests. When Ms Thelma approached Lim, he told her he would not intervene, and to just take whatever food Chong gave her.
With no access to her mobile phone and with Lim and Chong only allowing Ms Thelma to communicate with the employment agency through them, the woman could not ask for help. Ms Thelma eventually escaped and sought refuge at HOME, a welfare organisation for migrant workers in Singapore.
The couple’s plea of guilt comes after a three-day trial last year, during which Lim revealed his wife suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder, and has a history of anorexia nervosa.
Their case will next be mentioned on Apr 20, pending the findings of psychiatric assessments the couple are currently undergoing. Lim and Chong, who have four children, could be jailed up to 12 months and/or fined up to S$10,000.