Garment Truck Crash Leaves 47 Workers Injured

Forty-seven garment workers and a driver were injured when the truck in which they were traveling crashed in Svay Rieng province on Monday evening, police, doctors and union officials said on Tuesday.

According to Svay Rieng City police chief Ngin Sophal, the vehicle crashed in Kompong Ro district, but there were no fatalities.

Garment workers pile into trucks in Kompong Speu province in July. (Lauren Crothers/The Cambodia Daily)
Garment workers pile into trucks in Kompong Speu province in July. (Lauren Crothers/The Cambodia Daily)

The truck, like so many around the country that ferry workers to and from garment factories, was carrying 50 people from a factory in the province when the driver allegedly lost control at about 5:30 p.m.

Chea Odom, a representative from the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said: “The driver could not control the steering wheel, because it was broken, so he crashed and many of the workers were injured.”

Prak Sambath, the director of the city referral hospital, said four of the workers were “seriously injured” with broken collarbones and shoulder blades and were transferred to the provincial referral hospital, while the rest suffered more minor injuries, such as cuts and bruises to their hands and legs.

The crash is the latest in a long line of similar incidents and raises further questions about the lack of roadworthiness of vehicles tasked with transporting the country’s 600,000 garment workers to their workplace.

Pos Samith, a 22-year-old driver based in Svay Rieng, said traffic police check the driving licenses, tires and cages on a monthly basis.

“There are many drivers whose cars have crashed and are old, since they are poor, therefore, they cannot afford cars in good conditions—it causes more accidents since their engines can’t run properly,” Mr. Samith said.

“When traffic police see that there are problems, they will fine [the] drivers and send them to the police headquarters.”

If 30-year-old Phnom Penh garment worker Roeun Sarath had a choice, she would avoid the trucks altogether, she said, because they are crowded, go too fast and there is nowhere to sit.

“There have been a lot of garment truck accidents, because the trucks are old and the drivers do not follow the traffic law…. We have to force ourselves to take the trucks, even though it is dangerous, because we do not have a choice,” she said.

Pin Sophea, a 33-year-old worker from Kandal province, said so-called inspections for roadworthiness are pointless because “the drivers put too many workers in the trucks, while the authorities do not care and take bribes from the drivers to turn a blind eye to their violations.”

Jill Tucker, the chief technical adviser for Better Factories Cambodia, a program run by the International Labor Organization (ILO), said one solution would be for factories to rent vehicles instead of relying on the informal economy of individual drivers who wait outside.

“I think that it’s just another of many, many challenges that garment workers face, and the reality check on it is not only what is happening inside the factories that is sometimes challenging but even getting to and from them.”

(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)

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