Insurer Investigating Fire, Garment Factory Says

As employees of Phnom Penh’s Supertex garment factory filed back to work yesterday following an April 10 blaze that razed a company warehouse, authorities said a promised investigation panel had yet to materialize.

Meanwhile, neither factory officials nor their insurers would say whether a claim had been filed yet.

According to Phnom Penh firefighters, the blaze destroyed as much as 500 tons of fabric and 500 sewing machines at the Meanchey district factory before firefighters could extinguish the last of the flames the following morning. The company has reportedly blamed the blaze on an electrical malfunction.

Two days after the fire, Phnom Penh fire chief Neth Vantha said the Interior Ministry and the factory’s insurer, later identified as Campubank Lonpac Insurance, would join forces to investigate the blaze after the Khmer New Year. At the time, he attributed the delay to the absence of the factory owner, who “went to China.”

Contacted yesterday, however, Mr Vantha said the government was waiting on the factory to file an insurance claim.

“I have not received any information about the creation of a committee to investigate this case,” he said. “An investigation will occur as long as the factory files a claim with the insurance company.”

Neither factory nor insurance company officials would say whether that has happened.

Liv Mann, the factory’s chief administrator, said he only knew that the insurer had started an investigation of the blaze.

“The Campubank insurance company is checking into the factory,” he said. “They are checking on the damage.”

A Campubank representative offered to forward queries to representatives in Manila but said she had nothing to say.

“I prefer not to comment” said Agnes Chan, the bank’s general manager.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said a claim had in fact been filed.

“As far as I am aware, a claim has been filed,” he said.

Mr Loo also said it was standard practice for the fire department to investigate such a case only if called upon but that it was the insurance company’s prerogative to do so.

As for the workers, Mr Mann, the factory’s chief administrator, said all 2,700 employees had been welcomed back.

Mr Loo said that could change if the supplies lost to the fire were not replaced as needed.

“The company may have to suspend some workers if they run out of raw materials and they cannot replenish them on time,” he said.

Supertex is a subsidiary of Hong Kong company Tak Fat, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008.

 

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