Garment Truck Smashes Into Tree, Injuring 45

A truck carrying about 60 garment workers plowed into a tree in Kompong Cham province Tuesday and injured 45 people, five of them seriously, local police said.

The crash is the latest in a long line of similar incidents that have plagued the country’s $5-billion garment industry, whose hundreds of thousands of workers must often cram into open truckbeds to get to and from their factories at dawn and dusk.

“The truck’s wheel broke and then it hit a tree, leaving 40 workers with minor injuries and five seriously injured when other workers stepped on them,” district police chief Sam Nall said.

He said the workers were heading to the Mu Hsin Yuan factory in neighboring Choeung Prey district.

“After the truck hit the tree, the metal roof collapsed and the workers fell out of the truck,” Mr. Nall added.

“The driver did not run away when the accident happened; he tried to send workers to hospital. Right now, the truck is being kept at the police station, waiting for the driver to come and resolve the issue. He was careless about checking his vehicle.”

District governor Lor Chanly said the driver had improperly overloaded the vehicle with people.

“There is one garment worker who has broken her arm after she fell on the ground and she has been transported to Phnom Penh for treatment,” he said.

“We will instruct traffic police to instruct drivers to respect the traffic law.”

Jill Tucker, the chief technical adviser for Better Factories Cambodia, a program run by the International Labor Organization, said there is nothing in the Labor Law and no government law related to the safe transportation of workers.

“There are very few factories that rent buses and pick up workers. It’s a logistical nightmare, because many don’t live in the same area,” Ms. Tucker said.

The process is also unregulated and difficult to monitor, given that the majority of routes are operated by relatively small factories.

“The people who own these trucks work on this part of the highway and ferry workers to and from factories,” Ms. Tucker said. “It’s not public transportation, it’s very specifically for factories…. These are independent operators who make money off the workers.”

(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)

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