Authorities moved July 4 to quash rumors that female garment factory workers have been abducted from outside their factories in Phnom Penh, as hundreds of frightened garment factory staff have begun staying away from work.
The story of three women being abducted outside a garment factory in Dangkao district, which began circulating earlier the week of July 2, has deterred hundreds from reporting to work at garment factories in Phnom Penh, city officials said.
Deputy Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong asked authorities at a press conference July 4 to “take action on anyone who created the rumor,” calling those who started it “opportunists.”
Pa Socheatvong added that the municipality will reward anyone who reports eyewitness accounts of abductions.
A Ministry of Interior statement released July 3 told people not to believe the rumors of abductions by men traveling in cars with tinted windows.
“Authorities consider the exaggeration of a rumor an unjust action…to cause chaos and instability in society and intimidate people. [So that] garment workers would not go to work,” the statement said.
Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers’ Association of Cambodia, said that many factory workers have not come to work over the last three days.
He couldn’t say exactly how many workers have been deterred from work, but said that in one factory alone, which he declined to name, “at least 25 percent, or 200 garment factory workers, have taken leave from the factory.”
Van Sou Ieng said that when workers are scared, they are likely to drop their night shifts. He added that Labor Law amendments passed in early June to reduce the rate of nightshift pay from 200 percent of the daytime rate to 130 percent could also be a contributing factor.
“The rumor bothers the garment sector,” he said.
Vorng Serey Vuth, deputy police chief of Dangkao district, said police are investigating the abduction rumors and have yet to turn up any exact information.
“We did not receive any complaints from families who are missing their daughters,” he said, adding that police have inquired at every garment factory and haven’t found anyone missing.
Pao Sina, a Free Trade Union officer investigating the case, said he cannot yet say anything decisive pertaining to the rumor.
“We are still working to find the facts,” he said.
A 55-year-old street vendor, Kong Sophy, said that in the nights since the rumors started trade has been quiet in Meanchey district, where she works near several garment factories.
“They are afraid of being [abducted],” she said. “It is just a rumor which I cannot believe because it spread from mouth to mouth.”