Van Driver Dead, Garment Workers Injured in Highway Crash

A high-speed collision in Preah Sihanouk province involving two container trucks, a beer truck and a van crammed with garment workers resulted in one death and 34 injuries on Tuesday evening, according to police, who reported that three drivers fled the scene and remain at large.

The deadly crash occurred on National Road 4 in Prey Nop district at about 7 p.m. on Tuesday—just two weeks before authorities had planned to begin enforcing provisions of the new traffic law designed to minimize the dangers faced by the nation’s roughly 700,000 garment workers.

Authorities have blamed the accident on a pair of speeding container trucks operated by the CDP transportation company.

When the first of the CDP trucks rear-ended a truck operated by Cambrew—the company that makes Angkor Beer, based in Sihanoukville—the second truck swerved into oncoming traffic to avoid the wreck and collided with the van full of garment workers and two smaller cars, according to deputy provincial police chief Ei Sokha.

“The [CDP] truck driver was driving recklessly at high speed on a steep road, then hit the back of another truck, causing an accident,” Mr. Sokha said on Wednesday.

He said the van, carrying more than 20 workers from a factory in the district, bore the brunt of the impact; its driver, 55-year-old Buth Rarun, was killed.

A total of 34 people were injured in the collision, the majority of whom were garment workers, Mr. Sokha said, adding that three people in critical condition were sent on to hospitals in Phnom Penh.

The drivers of both CDP trucks and the Cambrew truck fled the scene, and police continued searching for them, he said.

Police have yet to begin enforcing provisions of the new traffic law that forbid workers from traveling to and from their factories in vehicles that do not have seats for all passengers.

However, Ear Chariya, director of the Institute for Road Safety, said he doubted garment workers would be able to find viable alternatives to the overcrowded and unsafe vehicles they rely on now.

Workers, Mr. Chariya said, “already know that taking the these trucks is risky for them.”

“But they don’t have a choice because it’s cheap and convenient. The government could solve the problem by getting buses to carry the garment workers,” he added.

(Additional reporting by Ben Paviour)

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