Seven people were arrested in Kompong Speu province Wednesday night for trying to collect a $9,500 haul of clothes that unpaid workers from a garment factory had allegedly sold to them without permission, police said Thursday.
Police arrested two buyers, three truck drivers and two men hired to move the merchandise after the owner of the A & J Carter (Cambodia) factory in Samraong Tong district—which stopped production a month ago—told authorities that his merchandise was being stolen, according to deputy provincial police chief Soum Bora.
“We arrested the people at about 9:30 p.m. because they stole the property of the factory,” Mr. Bora said. “The seven people are now being detained at the provincial police station for questioning…. We will send these people to the court tomorrow.”
Hing Bunthoeun, vice president of the Khmer Union Federation of Workers Spirit, said he attended a meeting Thursday with provincial authorities to try to resolve the issue on behalf of the workers, and that the factory owners and workers had agreed to sell the clothes.
“The factory owner agreed with the workers to sell the clothes and children’s shirts to get the money to pay the workers because they need money to join the upcoming Pchum Ben [holiday],” Mr. Bunthoeun said.
“But when the workers wanted to transport the stuff, [the factory owners] changed their minds and told the police to stop the trucks and arrest the people,” he said.
“The court has asked the representatives of the workers to talk with the factory owners to compromise within 48 hours…[or] they will send the arrested people to jail,” he added.
The union representative said 112 workers at the factory were not paid in August and September and that another 100 were still owed severance pay after quitting.
The workers had planned to receive $9,500 to share between them from selling the clothes, he said.
However, Ly Cheat, administrative manager at the A & J Carter factory, said the owners had never made an agreement with the workers to sell the clothes, though he acknowledged that production had been shut down for more than a month and the workers left unpaid.
“The workers asked the factory owner to sell the clothes and children’s shirts for money to pay the workers, but the factory owner refused,” he said. “The workers took the clothes and attempted to sell the clothes because they were angry.”
Deputy provincial prosecutor Ou Phat said he had ordered the seven men to be arrested for transporting the clothes without permission but would not say whether the operation amounted to thievery.
“I ordered the police to arrest those people because they transported the factory’s property without permission,” he said.
“We are not able to say those people stole the factory’s property because they are now being questioned at the provincial police station.”