Ministry molestation investigation put off

The release of an inquiry into a high-profile sexual harassment case at the Public Health Ministry has been postponed until later this week as a civic group has demanded a deeper probe, the ministry said Monday.

The story made headlines across the country earlier this month after a video clip emerged of a 30-year-old contract worker allegedly being groped, manhandled and put into a headlock by her boss in front of her colleagues.

She claimed the senior official had molested her at work since 2014 and threatened to terminate her contract if she did not agree to his advances.

Somsap Atthasit, deputy public health permanent secretary, said the ministry’s internal probe into the alleged harassment was due to announce its findings Monday but it will be deferred pending the results of a second investigation.

The additional probe arose from the intervention of the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation, which petitioned the ministry last week to check whether officials had tried to use their influence to have the criminal charge dropped against the accused official.

Dr Somsap said the ministry set up the probe as a separate panel and it is looking into the lobbying allegation. He said the results of both probes will be released later this week.

Asadet Rattanaworaprasert, who is employed at a supervisory level at the state office, reported to Nonthaburi police on Aug 17 to acknowledge charges of sexual harassment. He was questioned for two hours and was released on 200,000 baht bail.

The official has been accused of harassing his co-workers since 2014, according to Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn.

Dr Somsap said Monday the probe was also looking into whether more officials may have had knowledge of the alleged harassment.

If the panel finds grounds to the allegation, the official who stands accused of harassing his subordinates will be subject to disciplinary action.

So too will any of his colleagues who were aware of his behaviour but did nothing to intervene, the ministry said.

A disciplinary probe would take about a month to conclude, Dr Somsap said.

“The ministry is not turning a blind eye to this nor helping anyone escape prosecution,” he said. “The reason we have postponed the results of the probe is to get to the bottom of the matter and ensure the ministry can identify all of the wrongdoers,” he added.

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