Jail for woman who shopped via Geylang Serai Market barricade during Phase 2

Wan Ting Koh
·Senior Reporter
·3 min read
People wearing face masks amid concern over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus buy traditional delicacies, a custom ahead of Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, at the Geylang Serai market installed with crowd control screen in Singapore on May 21, 2020. (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP) (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
People shopping at the Geylang Serai market installed with crowd control screen on 21 May 2020. (PHOTO: AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A Singaporean woman who wanted to buy items from outside the barricade of Geylang Serai market during Phase 2 of the COVID-19 reopening was spotted by a safe distancing ambassador (SDA). 

Instead of heeding the instructions of the SDA to stop, Pham Thi Mai Thao, 43, used her power-assisted bicycle to hit the leg of the man thrice.

Pham was jailed for a week on Thursday (22 April) after she pleaded guilty to one count of rash act endangering the personal safety of a safe distancing ambassador. One count of using criminal force was considered for her sentencing. 

During Phase 2 of Singapore's reopening, Geylang Serai was among the markets that had entry restrictions whereby patrons were only able to visit on odd or even days depending on the last digit of their NRIC. 

Pham, a food stall assistant, was at the market on 2 August last year at about 8.40am, and was spotted by an SDA talking to a stall owner within the barricade. 

The SDA, who was wearing his lanyard, told Pham that she could not carry out transactions with those in the barricade. Pham replied that she knew about the rules but that she was only chatting with the stall owner.

The SDA then noticed Pham paying money to the stall owner and tried to stop her. He warned her three times to stop, but Pham ignored him and insisted on collecting her items in a plastic bag. 

Pham then tried to leave on her power-assisted bicycle (PAB) and the SDA tried to stop her, saying he would call other National Environment Agency officers over. The SDA stood in front of Pham's PAB to prevent her from leaving.

In a bid to leave, Pham pushed her PAB at the SDA, going over his right foot. In response, the SDA moved the PAB off his foot and told her that her PAB had hit him. Undeterred, Pham hit his foot with her PAB again. The SDA asked her to wait but Pham refused to listen, hitting his shin with her PAB. 

The SDA tried to hold onto the PAB and Pham slapped his right forearm twice before other officers arrived. One of them called the police. 

Three days later, the victim went to seek medical treatment but no obvious injury was found during his assessment. 

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jane Lim called for a week's jail for Pham, saying that her offence warranted a jail term despite the minor injury. 

She pointed out that Pham's act was deliberate and repeated, and that a deterrent sentence was needed for like-minded offenders. 

In mitigation, Pham apologised through an interpreter and said she was "very stressed". She then asked for time to settle family matters before serving her jail term. 

Ahead of her hearing, she told District Judge Marvin Bay that she had an 11-year-old son whom no one would care for if she went to jail. 

Sentencing Pham, DJ Bay noted, "Madam Pham had repeatedly pushed the PAB against the victim three times, and shows a degree of deliberation and persistence in her offending."

While the victim's injuries were not significant, it was "utterly unacceptable for acts of violence to be visited on safe distancing ambassadors, who are simply doing their job in protecting the public".

For committing a rash act to endanger someone's safety, Pham could have been jailed up to six months, or fined up to $2,500, or both. 

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