Nearly 3,000 workers were left jobless Thursday, a day after Wing Tai Apparel closed two garment factories in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district due to a shortage of orders, union officials said.
The Hong Kong-headquartered company, operating two factories in Cambodia since 1998, has promised to issue paychecks next Friday and compensation checks on March 24, said Mann Senghak, secretary-general of the Free Trade Union.
Standing outside the company’s second factory site Thursday morning, 26-year-old Keo Kalyan said she had been shocked by the closure, which she had learned about just the day before. She said she had made $45 a month working at the factory—about a quarter of which she had sent home to family in Prey Veng.
“I’ll go home to Kandal province for a while, then come back and try to find work,” another 26-year-old said.
The closure goes against the trend in the garment industry here, said Ly Tek Heng, assistant manager for the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia.
According to Ly Tek Heng, while 22 factories closed in 2005, 53 new factories opened. There are now 256 garment factories in operation, he said.
At Thursday’s Consultative Group Meeting, International Monetary Fund Representative John Nelmes predicted healthy times for the garment industry, due to continued international barriers against Chinese garments.
Cambodian garment sales to the US alone were 2.25 billion in 2005—a 12-percent increase over the year before—and 6-percent GDP growth is likely here this year in part due to “continued expansion of the garment industry,” he said.
Chuon Mom Thol, Cambodian Union Federation president, said he had doubts about the strength of the garment industry. He said he anticipated large companies leaving Cambodia for Vietnam and China.