Maid Claims Embassy Ignored Calls for Help

A domestic worker who claims she was sexually assaulted by the elderly man she was hired to care for in Singapore said Tuesday that the Cambodian Embassy there ignored her calls for help and instructed her to return to the home of her alleged abuser.

Lok Samean, 34, who returned to Cambodia on Monday, also said that Nation Employment, the Singaporean recruitment agency that placed her, attempted to silence her claims.

“[Nation] forced me to thumbprint a document agreeing to not file a complaint against the old man,” she said.

Ms. Samean had been working as the 92-year-old’s caregiver for about six weeks before complaining to Nation that he regularly crept into her bed and groped her.

“I worked as a server for the old man but he always harassed me every night when I slept in the same room,” Ms. Samean said.

Ms. Samean said she complained to Nation and requested a transfer to a new employer, but the agency instead kept her on its premises and forced her to work there for no salary.

“When I stayed at the agency, they had me eat food that was like pig food,” she said.

“I went to the [Cambodian] Embassy in Singapore to ask for help but the embassy requested me to work for six months more for the agency then I would be able to return home.”

Upon arrival in Singapore in February, Ms. Samean signed a contract with a moneylender agreeing that for the first six months of her two-year contract, $320 of her $385 salary would be sent to the Phnom Penh recruitment agency that sent her to Singapore—Philimore Cambodia.

Contacted Tuesday, Lao Lyhock, managing director at Philimore, said only 5 or 6 percent of maids sent to Singapore faced problems and that Ms. Samean’s story could not be corroborated.

“We cannot listen to only one side, and we could also not accuse the employer because our migrant worker has no evidence to prove that the employer is guilty,” he said.

Chiv Phally, deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-human trafficking department, said he had urged Ms. Samean to make a formal complaint in Cambodia while questioning her on Monday.

“I encouraged her to file a complaint against the employer to demand compensation for harassment, but she told me that she is scared to do so because the agency threatened her not to.”

The Cambodian Embassy in Singapore could not be reached for comment.

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