BANGKOK — A probe into a high-profile sexual assault complaint at the Ministry of Public Health will likely be completed by next week, an official said Thursday.
Three months after a ministry employee alleged a senior official had groped and assaulted her in the workplace for three years, the accusation has renewed attention to sexual misconduct in the bureaucracy and a perceived failure to punish the perpetrators.
Although ministry regulations allow four months to resolve internal complaints, the committee is working to complete the case sooner, according to the official in charge of discipline.
“I think the results should be out by next week,” Eupin Tanvisuth said. “They are working as fast as they can.”
The employee complained in late August that Assadej Rattanaworaprasert, a high-ranking administrator, had harassed and groped her since 2014. To back up her claim, she posted video to social media showing a uniformed man identified as Assadej restraining and aggressively groping a woman before she manages to break free and flee.
The woman, who sought to protect her anonymity, said she was accused of trying to discredit Assadej by other officials. After the allegations surfaced, the ministry said Assadej was transferred to another post.
The accusation against Assadej came on the heels of a similar case in the same ministry. In March, a nurse stationed at a northern hospital said she was sexually assault by a doctor there. Hospital directors attempted to cover up the assault, she said.
The two incidents caused widespread outrage and raised questions over the handling of sexual misconduct complaints within the bureaucracy. In both cases, the alleged perpetrators were transferred instead of suspended or terminated.
“I want every side to treat harassment and intimidation as a big problem, instead of appeasing it,” women welfare advocate Jaded Chaowilai said in August. “This issue has happened in every part of Thai society for a long time.”
Eupin said the committee is handling the matter seriously and being fair to all parties.
“We have both men and women on the working committee,” she said. “They work and hold meetings. They summoned witnesses for testimony and presented the accused with the evidence against him.”
The victim has declined to give testimony to the committee so far, but the absence of her account wouldn’t affect the investigation, Eupin said.
Someone answering the phone of ministry’s permanent secretary Jessada Chokdamrongsuk said he was unavailable for comment and said to wait for the disciplinary committee to complete its work.
“We are following up on this issue. Please be patient,” said the person, who would only identify herself as Jessada’s secretary.