Driver Charged With Injuring Truckload of Garment Workers

The Kompong Speu Provincial Court on Sunday charged a 44-year-old man over injuries sustained by dozens of garment workers riding in the bed of a large truck he slammed into while driving drunk on Friday, police said.

Provincial traffic police chief Sun Sovanthy said prosecutor Keo Sothea charged Vey Nop with injuring nearly 40 garment workers who had been standing in the truck on their way home from several factories along National Road 4 in Samraong Tong district.

“He was charged by provincial court today,” Mr. Sovanthy said. “He was put in pretrial detention at the provincial prison.”

District police chief Khut Sophal said Mr. Nop had been driving with an expired license and was drunk at the time of the accident, in which he veered his Toyota Tacoma into oncoming traffic and collided head on with the truck, causing it to flip.

“The reason for the crash is that the Tacoma driver was drunk and crashed into the truck,” Mr. Sophal said. He said the driver and all 37 passengers on board were hurt, adding that 24 were sent to the hospital, five with serious injuries.

Most garment workers receive a $10 monthly transportation stipend, and labor advocates say the small sum forces workers to risk their lives traveling to and from factories in overloaded trucks and vans.

Following a crash in Svay Rieng province last month that claimed the lives of 18 workers and their driver, Labor Minister Ith Samheng said drivers must be trained to obey traffic laws in order to protect the lives of the workers they transport.

Mr. Sophal on Sunday identified the driver of the truck transporting the workers as 33-year-old Tann Sen.

“I think the truck driver also made a mistake because he carried 40 workers,” he said. “I recommend that the provincial traffic police chief send him to the court.”

But Mr. Sovanthy, the provincial traffic police chief, said Mr. Sen would not be punished, because he was poor.

“We know they carry more workers [than allowed by law], but we understand that it’s for their livelihoods,” he said. “We need more time to educate them step by step.”

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