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Couple jailed for starving their foreign domestic worker

Almost 20 kg weight loss in slightly more than a year

  1. In the State Courts today, a foreign domestic worker (FDW) employer Lim Choon Hong (Lim), 48, freelance trader, and his wife, Chong Sui Foon (Chong), 48, housewife, were sentenced by District Judge Low Wee Ping for starving their Filipino FDW, Thelma Oyasan Gawidan (Thelma), 41, during her employment with the couple from 23 January 2013 to 18 April 2014. Lim was sentenced to three weeks’ imprisonment and fined $10,000, while his wife, Chong, was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment.
  2. Lim breached the work pass condition of failing to provide adequate food to their FDW, and thus committed an offence under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA). His wife abetted Lim in wilfully starving the FDW. Both pleaded guilty to the charges on 23 March 2016.
  3. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has also permanently barred the couple from employing FDWs.
  4. Commenting on the case, Ms Jeanette Har, Director of Well-Being Department at MOM’s Foreign Manpower Management Division, said, “The Ministry has zero tolerance for abuse and mistreatment of workers. The conduct of Lim and his wife is reprehensible and MOM will prosecute individuals who fail to safe guard the well-being of the worker. We are glad that Thelma’s physical condition has improved and she is now working for a new employer.”

    FDW only consumed Plain White Bread and Instant Noodles
  5. Thelma began her employment as an FDW in Lim’s household on 23 January 2013, at his condominium unit near Orchard Boulevard. Lim and Chong provided Thelma with only two meals a day throughout her employment. Thelma was usually given only plain bread and instant noodles. On some occasions, when Thelma asked Chong for more food, Chong would reject her request. On other occasions, she was given more pieces of plain bread but she would have fewer pieces of bread for her next meal.
  6. Chong neither allowed Thelma to buy food, nor allowed her to eat any other food at home. Thelma even had to seek Chong’s permission whenever she needed a drink, and Thelma would be given water from the tap.
  7. Thelma asked Lim and Chong to allow her to call her employment agency (EA) to seek help, and to request for a change of employment. The couple refused to let Thelma talk to the EA, and told her to communicate whatever she wanted to tell the EA through them instead. Thelma did not manage to contact her EA.

    FDW’s Well-being severely compromised arising from Severe Lack of Food
  8. Over the course of her employment and residence in Lim’s household between 23 January 2013 and 18 April 2014, Thelma lost a total of 19.6 kilograms. Her weight plunged from 49 kilograms to 29.4 kilograms. Thelma stopped menstruating since February 2013, and did not menstruate for the rest of her employment period. She lost strength, became physically weaker, and suffered hair loss. The couple were aware of Thelma’s weight loss and physical deterioration. When MOM referred Thelma for medical assessment, she was found to have suffered from severe malnutrition.

    Employers Must Take the Well-Being of their FDWs Seriously
  9. FDW employers are responsible for the upkeep and well-being of their FDW, which include adequate food and rest. The FDW needs to have adequate food, minimally three proper meals and a balanced diet. The FDW should also be provided with the basic necessities.
  10. MOM takes any form of ill-treatment of FDWs seriously, and will look into all complaints and thorough investigations will be undertaken. We will not hesitate to take action against employers who compromise the safety and wellbeing of their workers. Employers who are found to have breached any work pass conditions can be liable to a maximum fine of $10,000, or 12 months’ imprisonment or both, per charge.
  11. FDWs who need help for well-being issues can call the MOM FDW Helpline at 1800 339 5505.
  12. Anyone with information on suspected offences involving FDWs can write in to MOM at or call 6438 5122 to report the matter.