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Company admits ‘negligence’ in factory disaster

1 wing star shoes collapsed
Police and military officers rescues workers crashed by ceiling falls at Wing Star Shoe factory. Photograph: AFP/ Heng Chivoan

Representatives of Wing Star Shoes Co, Ltd said today that negligence led to the collapse of a storage level that killed two of its workers on Thursday morning.

Chan Kosal, the Kampong Speu factory’s shipping director, said the company, a supplier to Japanese footwear company Asics, deeply regretted the deaths of the two workers.

“It was negligence that caused this unexpected incident to happen,” he said in a press conference. “The company will pay the cost of the two victims’ funerals and the medical bills of those injured.”

Minister of Social Affairs Ith Sam Heng has promised a full investigation into the collapse and reforms across the industry.

Kosal said Wing Star, in Kong Pisei district, was cooperating with government officials investigating the collapse, but no one had been arrested over the deaths.

Sim Srey Touch and Reung Chak, 24, died and 11 others were injured when a storage level that authorities have said was illegally constructed collapsed, sending concrete and metal crashing down on workers on the level below.

Officials have said Srey Touch is 22, but members of her family told the Post on Thursday that she was 15.

Yim Pao, 23, the older sister of Srey Touch, said the company had paid $6,000 to her family, $6,000 to Chak’s family and $1,000 to each worker injured.

“I don’t know yet what my mother thinks of this, because we are busy with the funeral,” she said.

Worker Sok Ny, 29, said employees visited the factory this morning but did not work.

“We agreed with the factory owner to go back to work on Monday, because we are still in shock,” she said.

Dave Welsh, American Center for International Labor Solidarity country manager, said the factory and Asics need to pay more compensation.

“There’s no question of compensation,” he said. “But the amounts being bandied about so far are an insult.”

Welsh also questioned suggestions made by the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia that the factory collapse was a “one-off”.

“It’s quite the opposite,” he said, adding that a quarter of all factories investigated at random last year had health and safety violations.

In a statement yesterday, the International Labour Organization said it was saddened by the deaths.

“The ILO would like to express its condolences to the families of those who lost their lives,” the statement reads.

“The ILO believes that sound safety standards must be founded on effective social dialogue between workers and employers. The ILO calls for concrete action to guarantee a safe environment for factory workers in Cambodia.”

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