Two die after ceiling collapse at Cambodia shoe factory

Tragedy at shoe factory south of capital raises fears of a disaster similar to Bangladesh's

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 May, 2013, 1:52am

A ceiling collapse at a factory making Asics trainers in Cambodia killed two workers yesterday, fuelling concerns about workplace safety following last month's industrial disaster in Bangladesh.

Local rescue teams, helped by soldiers, scrambled to search through the rubble of the fallen structure, which appeared to have been on a mezzanine level laden with crates of trainers.

Khem Pannara, district police chief for the area in the southern province of Kampong Speu, said at least 11 people had been injured in the collapse, some seriously, adding that the rescue operation had ended.

"Two workers, a man and a woman, were killed," he said.

The concrete ceiling had been used to store equipment and materials, and had probably collapsed because it could not hold the weight due to "poor construction", he added.

Garment factories in Cambodia do not meet international safety standard because the quality of the buildings is not ensured and people have been working with a high risk of danger

Last month a nine-storey factory complex outside Dhaka collapsed, killing 1,127 people in one of the world's worst industrial tragedies. It put pressure on Western retailers that rely on cheap labour in the region, where safety standards are often inadequate.

Say Sokny, of Cambodia's Free Trade Union, a national body for garment and other industrial workers, said the factory - Wing Star Shoes - was Taiwanese-owned and produced shoes for Japanese sports brand Asics.

National police spokesman Kirt Chantharith said the factory owner was being questioned to find out whether there was a permit for the construction and how the factory - in Angsokun village, 50 kilometres south of Phnom Penh - was built.

Sokny, 29, said: "I was so shocked. I am crying. I saw blood in the debris."

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, said the incident would fuel fears among the country's workers about industrial safety.

"Garment factories in Cambodia do not meet international safety standard because the quality of the buildings is not ensured and people have been working with a high risk of danger," he said

"We are calling for the government and authorities to re-examine the quality of the factory buildings in order to avoid this kind of incident in the future. It happened in Bangladesh recently and now it has happened in Cambodia. We are very worried about the safety of the workers."

Cambodia earned US$4.6 billion from its garment exports last year but a series of strikes has highlighted discontent at low wages and tough conditions.

The monthly minimum wage for workers making clothes for firms such as Levi Strauss, of the US, and Sweden's H&M this month rose from US$61 to US$75, plus US$5 for health care, after months of protest.


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