Garment Workers Cornered by Job Loss, Virus Fears and Looming Debt

At 47 years old, Chhun Sovath has worked in garment factories for more than a decade. The steady income — less than $200 per month — allowed her to take a $6,000 microfinance loan in order to pay for a house in Takeo province. But after her Phnom Penh factory suspended operations until at least the end of June, Sovath is now concerned about her debt.

With the Covid-19 pandemic and global economic downturn contributing to more than 100 factories halting production this year, Sovath and other suspended garment workers are struggling to figure out how they will make their loan payments.

“We want Amret to suspend our payments because we aren’t being paid properly by the factory anymore,” she says, referring to Amret Microfinance Institution, one of Cambodia’s largest MFIs by loan portfolio size.

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