Vann Sok Heng is a steel expert: from doors to warehouses, he can build and fix all things made of steel. Today, Sok Heng is the owner of a steel shop located near the antenna in Tuol Kork District.
Sok Heng, a big man with dark skin, got his start in steel when he arrived in Phnom Penh for the first time in 1993. He and his older brother took jobs as construction workers at the 7 January Bridge when Sok Heng was just 17-years-old. Although his brother gave up after a few days on the job, Sok Heng began a long career as a blue-collar steelworker.
When he first started, Sok Heng made a pitiful salary of just $40 a month. To complicate matters further, his fellow workers spoke Vietnamese. However, he received extensive training just by doing his job right.
“I did not know their language, and I knew only that they asked me to do this and that, but what was important is that I had to learn the job.”
After working as a steelworker, a retailer and a motor taxi driver, Vann Sok Heng started his own business in 2004.
He said that he is a good employer who always thinks of his staff’s safety instead of just his benefits. Sok Heng’s aims to learn to repair stair mechanisms.
As a business owner, Sok Heng sometimes has to deal with dishonesty.
“I have been cheated many times, but I do not know how to deal with it.”
His job can be dangerous, as demonstrated by several accidents that have occurred on the job. One day in 2000, Sok Heng suddenly fainted while standing on the sand at his workplace. When he finally opened his eyes again, he was at Calmette Hospital the next day. He then realised that his body was burnt.
His friend told him that he was shocked by electricity when a nearby worker put an iron ladder on an electrical cable. The scars are still on him today.
He went back to work after just two weeks of recovery, but he found the work very difficult in his condition. Instead of working with steel directly, he decided to become a steel realtor. Staff and budget issues caused that to fail, however, so he went back to his old job.
After the accident, he could not work hard because when he tried to do something difficult, the blood went to his head and he began to feel dizzy. But he continues the job because it is what he loves most.
“I used to be a hairdresser, a radio and TV repairer, but I love being a steelworker, and I have a talent for this job,” he said, covered in sweat.