Factory Shuts Doors as 72 More Workers Faint in Kompong Speu

A further 72 workers fainted at a factory in Kompong Speu province on Tuesday after more than 40 collapsed on Monday, leading the factory to shut down for three days to allow the workers to recuperate, officials said.

The latest faintings happened at about 8:30 a.m., just over a day after 44 workers fell ill upon starting work at the newly-opened Cerie Cambodia Garment factory, according to Chek Borin, director of the provincial labor department.

Monday’s incident was blamed on fumigation of the factory on Sunday night and management’s failure to properly air out the building. Mr. Borin said he believed Tuesday’s faintings were caused by panic among workers.

“One person had difficulty breathing and became weak and was carried out. When they saw this, they subsequently fell down,” Mr. Borin said. “It has nothing to do with the pesticide anymore but they still felt shocked and scared inside the factory.”

Mr. Borin said factory bosses decided to halt operations until Friday on the advice of the government, adding that a Buddhist ceremony would be held at the factory today to help workers “feel at ease.”

Mass faintings are common in Cambodian factories, and are believed by most experts to be a form of mass psychogenic illness, possibly exacerbated by poverty, poor nutrition and substandard working conditions.

Or Vanthen, director of the provincial health department, said the workers were rushed to the provincial hospital after collapsing on Tuesday and that most had already returned home by the afternoon.

Da Vy, 36, a worker at the factory who fainted on Tuesday, said she was unsure why she had collapsed.

“I just finished sewing 20 bras and I started not feeling good…. I went to the bathroom and my hands and legs became weak and I fainted,” Ms. Vy said. “I still feel in shock over this incident, because I have been working for 10 years in the garment sector and I have never experienced this before.”

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