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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Take it or leave it’

‘Take it or leave it’

2 family grieves death CHAURASMEY

The uncle of a man who died in Thursday’s ceiling collapse at the Wing Star Shoes factory in Kampong Speu province claimed yesterday that the company had threatened to give the family nothing if they did not agree to an on-the-spot payout.

It came as a government official said the two families who lost loved ones in the collapse were not eligible for state compensation beyond funeral costs.

Rim Rorn, 29, uncle of Rim Roeun, 22, who died in the Kong Pisei district factory, a supplier to Asics, said talks between his family and factory representatives had broken down.

“The representatives told us to accept their offer . . . or it’s hopeless for us,” he said.

Wing Star Shoes management, which could not be reached for comment yesterday, had offered the family about $10,000 – $20,000 less than they wanted, Rorn said.

“We don’t want to go further to demand more compensation, but it seems the company does not agree . . . so I think we will file a complaint to the government.

“Our demands are not much. My nephew lost his life and is survived by a wife and a month-old baby.”

But Rorn said a factory representative had told his family not to sell their rice fields or land to fund legal action against Wing Star Shoes, because they would “get nothing”.

Roeun and co-worker Kim Dany, who was initially identified by police and family members as Sim Srey Touch, were crushed to death when an overloaded storage level collapsed, sending concrete, steel and stock crashing onto the walkway beneath.

Authorities have said the storage level was constructed poorly and without permission by an unnamed company that was not registered.

Fourteen of about 7,000 workers in the factory have now reported being injured. Three remain in hospital.

Korn Vet, 44, the father of Kim Dany, said company representatives had already paid his family $6,500 for a funeral.

“The factory wants to end this problem and pay compensation after the funeral, but I don’t know how much they’re offering. I lost my daughter, so I hope the factory will give fair compensation – something we can accept.”

Dave Welsh, American Center for International Labor Solidarity country manager, said the company would not get away with trying to settle the case by making threats.

“You don’t go to poor, grief-stricken Cambodian families on a weekend when no one else is around to say ‘take it or leave it’,” he said. The factory and Asics would have to provide a lot more, he added.

“They’re looking at two workers alone who have lost a lifetime of earnings for their families,” Welsh said. “If they think they are going to get away with [this offer], they haven’t been on the end of an international campaign against them.”

It is not yet clear how much – if any – compensation Asics will offer.

Sum Sophorn, deputy director of the National Social Security Fund, said Roeun and Dany’s families would receive just $1,000 compensation from the government – only to cover funeral costs.

He “regretted” that Roeun’s wife, who has a newborn baby, was not entitled to more because she doesn’t have a marriage certificate.

“I would like to appeal to workers who get married, please register for a legal marriage certificate,” he said.

Dany’s parents, Sophorn said, were not entitled to more compensation because they were both under 55 and Dany was not married.

Vet, Dany’s father, said his daughter, whom authorities have said was 22, was actually 16 – and had used the fake name Sim Srey Touch in the factory.

Family members told the Post on Thursday that Dany was 15 and had faked documents to get a job.

Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center, said that when his colleagues visited Dany’s family on Friday, her mother had been scared to talk about her daughter’s age again in case it affected her compensation.

“But her father and her neighbour showed us she was only 15,” Tola said.

Police would not say yesterday whether they had confirmed Dany’s age by checking her family book or by using factory records.

Military police at first identified Roeun as Reung Chak, 24, while an injured worker has told the Post that she, too, was working under a fake name.

Chan Kosal, Wing Star Shoes’ shipping director, said on Friday that his company would pay for the victims’ funerals and medical treatment.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodia Defenders Project, said it was unlikely, though, that anyone would be charged.

“If we are talking about . . . it being a criminal [case] of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, someone must [be proven] to have intended to commit a crime,” he said. “They do not have any law relating to neglect or illegal construction . . . I think there is only compensation.”

In a statement released Friday, Asics said it would offer support to those affected and launch its own full investigation.



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