M'sian woman, 20, allegedly committed suicide after suffering from workplace abuse at S'pore eye therapy firm

MOM is investigating the matter.

Zhangxin Zheng | November 21, 2020, 08:53 AM

A 20-year-old Malaysian woman allegedly committed suicide after bearing the brunt of workplace abuse in a Singapore firm and her family is now seeking justice for her.

The woman named Catrene Khoo would have turned 21 on Nov. 15, 2020.

She took her own life in December 2019.

Account of what allegedly happened posted online

On Nov. 15, a Facebook page, "Save us from SLM Vxxxxxcare Singapore", shared the story of Khoo who allegedly suffered from verbal abuse and pressure while working in an eye therapy company in Singapore.

Khoo's mother subsequently spoke to various media.

Mother of Malaysian employee accused Singapore eye therapy company of workplace abuse

According to Khoo's mother, her daughter started working at SLM Visioncare Singapore as a therapist on Aug. 1, 2019.

During her time at the eye therapy firm, she allegedly suffered verbal abuse from her boss Darren Yaw.

Yaw berated Khoo constantly, calling her "stupid", "idiot" and "brainless", Khoo's mother told Chinese evening paper, Shin Min Daily News.

Khoo's mother shared that Yaw also deducted Khoo's weekend off days after Khoo took medical leave.

Khoo's mother believes that two incidents were the trigger that led to Khoo's suicide.

Khoo's mother also told Shin Min that there was once Khoo applied for no-pay leave to return to Malaysia to attend a relative's funeral.

Yaw's wife approved her leave application but Khoo still received multiple calls from Yaw who demanded her to come back to work.

On a separate occasion, Khoo applied for a six-day leave to attend a wedding.

It was later reduced to four days, an arrangement which Khoo agreed to eventually.

However, right before she went on leave, Khoo was dismissed from work.

She was allegedly accused of breaching the contract and was asked to pay the company S$1,000 as well.

Unable to cope with the emotional toll and stress, she committed suicide at home after returning to Malaysia in December 2019.

Hopes to seek justice for Khoo

Almost a year after Khoo's passing, her mother wanted to come to Singapore to seek justice for Khoo but she had no passport and money.

Then Covid-19 pandemic struck and Malaysia underwent a lockdown.

Khoo's mother later got to know one of the former employees of SLM Visioncare Singapore, who helped her make a complaint with the Ministry of Manpower.

She also lodged a police report against Yaw in Malaysia.

Worked in Singapore to support family

Khoo's mother told Shin Min that Khoo came to Singapore to help support the family.

She was filial and thrifty, and would send 1,000 ringgit (S$330) home monthly.

The family was devastated by Khoo's death. Khoo's mother said:

"I didn't give my daughter a good life so she had to suffer, I even use the money from her wake to see a psychiatrist. I wanted to go with her but I can't do that, I need to seek justice for her."

SLM Visioncare Singapore boss denies allegations

According to Shin Min, Yaw denied the allegations made by Khoo's mother and said that Khoo was dismissed because of poor performance at work.

He said that he was aware that Khoo had some personal struggles and it was her first time working in Singapore

He found it suspicious that Khoo's experience was only shared almost a year after her passing.

Through his lawyer, Yaw also said that the allegations were fabricated by a group of ex-employees who are now part of a competing firm.

He believes they are doing this to deter potential candidates from joining his company and it will affect his business.

According to Shin Min, Yaw said he is a demanding employer but he is fair towards his employees and the current employees can help prove that the working culture is positive.

A current employee of Yaw told Shin Min that Yaw is strict and demanding but she has not heard of him using derogatory terms in the company.

SLM Visioncare Singapore boss apologises

While Yaw denied the allegations made against him, Khoo's mother revealed that Yaw apologised to the family.

In a 17-minute recording, Yew was heard apologising and asking for forgiveness from Khoo's family.

However, the apology has come too late, and Khoo's family said that they are not willing to resolve the matter or forgive him.

Khoo's mother said that Yaw only apologised after the incident blew up online.

Mothership has reached out to Yaw and will update the story if he replies.

MOM investigating

MOM confirmed that Khoo's mother has been in touch with the ministry on Oct. 29, 2020.

Investigations are ongoing.

If you are facing any difficulties, here are some organisations you can turn to.


National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868

Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444

Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

Institute of Mental Health's Mobile Crisis Service: 6389-2222

Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800

Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928

Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788

AWARE Women's Helpline: 1800-777-555 (10am - 6pm, Monday to Friday)

Top image via Save us from SLM Vxxxxxcare Singapore/Facebook and Anny Chew/Facebook