As many as 100 female garment factory workers were hospitalized on Friday following a mass fainting at a factory in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district, according to a factory representative and a union official, though different reasons were cited for the incident.
Veng Vanny, an administration chief at the Maurea Garment Corporation, said mass fainting occurred at his factory during an annual fire prevention drill. Mr Vanny blamed the incident on fumes from fire extinguishers used during the drill and the fact that the staffers, all of whom are Muslims, were weak from participating in the fasting holy month of Ramadan.
“According to our investigation, those garment workers fainted because of their weak health condition, due to the Khmer-Islam female garment workers’ diet for the holy season,” he said by telephone yesterday, adding that all but three of the 60 to 70 workers who fainted have been released from hospital.
Cambodian Union Federation President Chhoun Mom Thol said that the number hospitalized was closer to 100 and blamed the mass fainting on chemicals used in the factory.
“The workers fainted because of chemical smells,” he said.
Russei Keo District Governor Kob Slab also said the workers fainted from chemical fumes and denied that it was due to Ramadan fasting.
“They do this fast for the holy season every year,” he said. “Why didn’t they faint last year?”
In October 2006, 64 female garment workers were hospitalized following a mysterious mass fainting at Vivatino Design factory in Russei Keo district. Officials at the time blamed the incident on chemical fumes as well as crowded working conditions.