Three men severely beat a factory worker Friday, prompting factory managers to cease production and delay orders for at least a week, labor officials said Tuesday.
Horm Choeun, a union activist from the United Eternity (Cambodia) Ltd garment factory in Meanchey district’s Chak Angre Krom commune, was beaten with a metal pipe shortly after arguing with a factory administrator, said Cambodian Coalition of Apparel Workers Union President Chhorn Sokha.
United Eternity managers sent 720 workers home and ceased production indefinitely to defuse a potentially violent reaction from workers over the attack, said Phou Li, the factory’s executive chief of exports and imports.
While Horm Choeun, 25, lingered outside the factory’s compound during his lunch break Friday, three unidentified men riding one motorbike approached the factory. Two of the men dismounted and attacked Horm Choeun, Chhorn Sokha said. The men then rode away.
Chak Angre Krom commune police Chief Chea Sokaiy confirmed the reports Tuesday and said police are searching for the suspects based on physical descriptions given by the victim.
Chhorn Sokha said the attack was orchestrated by the factory to punish Horm Choeun for arguing with factory administrators.
Horm Choeun and Chea Chan Tong, an administrator’s assistant, argued Thursday about how the administrator was treating workers, Chhorn Sokha said.
Phou Li denied the charge, saying the factory would never plan such an act as the backlash would be too costly to production.
Sixteen laborers, including a union secretary-general, were suspended following the attack as punishment for allegedly urging workers to strike to demand the attackers’ arrest, Phou Li said.
“Some of them are bad boys. They are lazy, lazy men,” another factory assistant said on condition of anonymity.
All 720 workers were indefinitely dismissed for their own protection, Phou Li said.
United Eternity will miss this week’s deadline for orders from Canadian and US garment buyers, which include the department store JC Penney, according to the assistant.
Chhorn Sokha said the factory’s excuse for suspending production was unacceptable, but that the union would have to wait until work resumes to resolve the workers’ dispute.
Production will not resume, however, until the dispute is resolved, Phou Li said.
Horm Choeun received 17 stitches from a factory doctor for injuries to his head and face and is recovering at home, Chhorn Sokha said.