Immigration police detained a Chinese garment factory owner on Tuesday night at Phnom Penh International Airport following allegations she was attempting to flee without paying $40,000 in wages owed to 400 workers, officials said Wednesday.
Hu Shu Hau, owner of the You Cheng garment factory in Kandal province, is being temporarily detained by police without an arrest warrant, airport police Chief Duong Ngeat said Wednesday.
She will remain detained until the salary issue is resolved, Duong Ngeat said.
“This is not a penal case or a cheating case,” he said. “We will let her go when both sides reach an agreement.”
Immigration police acted on a complaints made Tuesday by workers at the You Cheng factory who accused the owner of intending to shut the factory down without paying workers for the month of December.
“The workers are afraid that if we let her go, she will never come back,” Duong Ngeat said.
A factory manager said workers became suspicious when Hu, who usually drives a company car, left the factory in her own vehicle at the end of work Tuesday.
Factory chief administrator Sar Pheakdey said Wednesday that after Hu left for the airport at 6 pm on Tuesday, he and unionized workers filed a complaint with the immigration police to arrest her.
Hu had announced earlier in the day that she planned to close the factory down in January, Sar Pheakdey said.
“I think the factory owner does not want to offer the salary after she shut down the factory,” he said.
He added that the owner has also not paid the factory’s electric bill or monthly sewing machine rental fees.
Hu, according to police, was traveling with $8,000 when detained at the airport. She told police that workers’ wages would be paid in January.
Chea Mony, Free Trade Union president, said Wednesday that negotiations are underway with the owner.
“If the factory owner does not sign a contract promising to pay the workers, we will take the matter to municipal court,” he said.