SINGAPORE: In August last year, when COVID-19 measures restricted shoppers at some popular markets based on their NRIC numbers, a woman went to Geylang Serai market when she was not allowed to.
She insisted on buying items through a barricade before rolling her electric bicycle over a safe-distancing ambassador’s foot and slapping his arm so she could move forward.
Pham Thi Mai Thao, a 43-year-old food stall assistant, was given one week’s jail on Thursday (Apr 22) for a rash act endangering personal safety. A second charge of using criminal force was taken into consideration.
The court heard that Geylang Serai market was barricaded during Phase 2 of Singapore’s reopening during the pandemic, and entry restrictions allowed people to visit either on odd or even dates corresponding to the last digit of their identity card number. The National Environment Agency (NEA) engaged safe-distancing ambassadors to ensure that patrons adhere to the measures.
Pham’s IC ended in an odd number, but she went to the market on Aug 2.
At about 8.40am, a 49-year-old safe-distancing ambassador saw Pham standing beside her e-bike on the ground floor of the market, talking to a stall owner who was behind the barricade.
The victim approached Pham and told her she was not allowed to carry out any transactions over the barricade. Pham told him she was only talking to the stall owner, but the victim saw her paying money over the barricade.
When he tried to stop her, Pham ignored him despite at least three warnings. After collecting her purchases in a plastic bag from the stall owner, she tried to leave on her e-bike.
SAFE-DISTANCING AMBASSADOR TRIED TO STOP HER FROM LEAVING
However, the victim told her to stop and said he would call other NEA officers over, before standing in front of her e-bike. Pham was uncooperative and insisted on leaving.
Pham, who was on the e-bike, then pushed the device towards the victim and its front wheel went over his foot. The victim told her that her e-bike had hit him, but she was undeterred and again pushed her device in his direction, hitting his foot with the front wheel.
Pham continued to push her e-bike against the victim, who held onto the handle to prevent it from moving forward. Angered by this, she slapped his forearm twice.
An assistant director with the NEA arrived soon after and called the police.
The victim sought treatment at a hospital and was discharged with medication and outpatient follow-up at a polyclinic.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Jane Lim asked for a week’s jail, noting that Pham has a previous conviction for affray and saying that she was deliberate and had pushed the victim repeatedly.
Pham said she was sorry for what she did and asked for forgiveness, saying she was very stressed and would like to pay a fine in instalments.
District Judge Marvin Bay said safe-distancing ambassadors perform an integral role in the fight against COVID-19 but Pham had failed to comply with required measures.
“While the injuries were not significant, it is utterly unacceptable for acts of violence to be visited on safe-distancing ambassadors, who are simply doing their job in protecting the public,” he said.
He granted her some time to settle her family matters before beginning her sentence.
For a rash act endangering safety, Pham could have been jailed up to six months, fined up to S$2,500, or both.