Police Free Garment Workers Locked In at Night by Factory

Police in Phnom Penh were called up Friday night to order a Chinese-owned garment factory to release a group of employees it had locked inside in a failed attempt to make them work late into the night, officials said Sunday.

Norng Sothea, deputy military police commander of Meanchey district, said about 30 of the Kang Da garment factory’s 400 employees had agreed to work an extra three hours after their regular shifts ended at 5 p.m. on Friday. But when the workers tried to leave at 8 p.m., they found the gates locked, trapping them inside.

Mr. Sothea said he received a call from the workers’ distraught relatives—who had started protesting outside the factory gate for the workers’ release—at about 10 p.m.

“After I got the information, I ordered the military police to intervene. The workers’ relatives were trying to force the gate open, so we ordered the factory security guard to open the gates immediately,” he said. “They had locked the gate and did not let the workers go home until 11 p.m.”

Though illegal detention is a crime, Mr. Sothea said no arrests were made because violence was not used against the workers. He said officials from the Labor Ministry contacted his office on Saturday to inquire about the incident and would visit the factory today.

A spokesman for the ministry could not be reached.

Stung Meanchey commune police chief Mao Savoeun said the factory was desperate to get its employees to work overtime to complete an order.

“The factory asked the workers to work overtime because they had an urgent clothing order from a buyer,” he said.

Kim Ly Ho, a factory official who refused to provide his title or position, said the issue had been “resolved” and declined to comment further.

“If you want more comment and information, you’ll need to speak to the human resources department. I am afraid I cannot find his contact number for you,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Tszkwan Ho)

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