23 hurt in shelter collapse at Phnom Penh factory owned by Hong Kong firm

Phnom Penh incident underscores concerns about safety in Southeast Asia garment industry

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 May, 2013, 9:15am


A structure's collapse in Cambodia's capital injured 23 workers yesterday at a factory thought to be owned by a Hong Kong group and which produces garments for H&M, police said.

The concrete and metal shelter, where workers were resting during their lunch break, collapsed in the Top World factory in Phnom Penh, said local police chief Hy Narin.

"The shelter is old and it collapsed into the lake while the workers were having lunch there," he said, adding that the injured workers were rushed to hospital for treatment. "No one died, but 23 workers were injured."

The shelter is old and it collapsed into the lake while the workers were having lunch there

The factory is a manufacturer for Swedish fashion giant H&M, said Ath Thun, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation. "With this latest incident, we are worried about the safety of the garment workers," he said.

A factory named Top World Garment was among three Cambodian garment plants listed on the website of Hong Kong-based PADA Industrial, although a company representative could not be reached to confirm that it was the same factory.

PADA Industrial also runs Kbal Koah Garment and Kbal Koah Wash Processing & Garment Factory in Cambodia.

The three factories employ 1,700 workers, including 752 at Top World. PADA has five more factories in Vietnam and on mainland China.

It was not immediately clear what triggered the shelter's collapse. Authorities and rescuers were seen searching the site to ensure nobody was trapped underneath, witnesses say.

"I was standing on the end of the kiosk," In Srey Nin, a Top World worker, told The Phnom Penh Post. "I saw it begin to collapse and people falling into the water. Five other people and myself helped pull a pregnant woman from the water."

The incident raises concerns about safety standards at Asian plants producing cheap clothing for top Western brands, and comes just days after a ceiling collapsed at a factory of Wing Star Shoes, a Taiwanese shoemaker for Japanese sports brand Asics.

Two workers died in that incident last Thursday in the Kong Pisei district of Kampong Speu province, 50 kilometres west of Phnom Penh.

Wing Star admitted to neglecting staff safety and pledged to take full responsibility. The accidents have added to concerns about safety in Asia's garment industry after a factory collapse last month in Bangladesh that killed 1,127 people in one of the world's worst industrial disasters.

That has sparked campaigns in the West to improve safety conditions at plants in the country supplying Western brands.

The Phnom Penh Post reported on March 22 that employees at the Wing Star plant had stopped work and blocked a main road for about an hour to protest the low wages and the poor working conditions.

Additional reporting by Reuters