Maid Accused of Hitting Baby in Singapore

Singaporean police have investigated allegations that a Cambodian woman working as a maid in the city-state assaulted an infant in her care, according to the Cambodian ambassador there and a Singaporean recruitment agency.

Cheth Naren, Cambodian ambassador to Singapore, said that three Cambodian women came to him for help Wednesday—two because they were struggling under their working conditions and a third, Chhom Srey Neang, because she had been accused of striking a baby and was concerned at what might come of those claims.

“One of the women told me that the employer accused her of hitting the baby; they all told me that they really wanted to go home,” Mr. Naren said.

“I got information from the agent that the employer filed a complaint with police and now the issue of hitting the baby is under investigation,” he said.

The agent, Nation Employment, which signs Cambodian maids into debt bondage on arrival in Singapore, said that authorities had concluded their exploration of the abuse claims.

“Yes, there is one abuse case,” said Hoh Seah Li, a manager at Nation Employment. “But I don’t want to talk about it to you because it is not your business, it is Singapore police business.”

Ms. Hoh said that “the investigation is over already—it’s closed,” and declined to answer further questions.

Mr. Naren said he had encouraged the three women who reported to him Wednesday to make efforts to settle issues with employers and failing that, ask to be transferred to a new employer.

“I told them that if they want to go home or not…I can’t stop them but at the embassy we encourage them to stay and work hard. I want this pilot project to be a successful one,” he said.

“I told [Ms. Srey Neang] that if she wants to stay, I can help find her a new employer.”

Singaporean law, however, will prevent the woman from leaving the country until police have completed their inquiry. It is unclear if she is still residing with her employer.

Also Wednesday, Mr. Naren rejected the claims of another Cambodian domestic worker, Lok Samean, who on Tuesday said the Embassy ignored her calls for help when she went there to complain that the elderly man she had been hired to care for had repeatedly sexually assaulted her.

Ms. Samean had filed a complaint with Singapore police but withdrew it in order to return home.

“Its not true that she tried to call the embassy and nobody cared for her call,” Mr. Naren said. “She has distorted the truth.”

Mr. Naren said that he had actually met with Ms. Samean twice and attempted to find her a new employer after she moved out of her original employer’s home and into the Nation training center.

However, after about three weeks at Nation, Ms. Samean fell ill, was checked into hospital and cut off all ties with the embassy, according to Mr. Naren.

After checking out of the hospital on May 24, Ms. Samean went into a shelter belonging to HOME, an anti-human trafficking NGO.

“My colleague attempted to contact her at the NGO but the NGO said she did not want to meet the embassy anymore,” Mr. Naren said.

Of the more than 220 women sent to Singapore under the Labor Ministry’s pilot program in the past year, Ms. Samean is the third to return home—all three have said that the reality in Singapore was a far cry from what was promised by the Labor Ministry and recruitment agencies.

Mr. Naren, however, said that those still in Singapore should attempt to resolve any problems through him before giving up and returning home.

“I have explained very clearly to the workers here that I am Cambodian and I always stand on the Cambodian side,” he said.

“I am a mediator. If you work hard, I will defend you. However, if you break the law in Singapore, it is very hard to help.”

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