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Mass collapse at garment factory

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Workers from M&V International Manufacturing Ltd recover at a hospital in Kampong Chhnang after a mass fainting yesterday.

Another mass fainting incident struck a garment factory yesterday, this time in the provincial capital of Kampong Chhnang where more than 100 workers at M&V factory collapsed, company and union representatives said yesterday.

Staff began falling to the factory floor at about 9:00am, said Noun Chhenghour, president of Cambodia Union Workers, adding that more than 80 of them were taken to hospital.

“We don’t know why they fainted. The relevant officials went down to check the factory, but they did not conclude their investigation,” she said. Company representative Un Chhan Teak said there was no connection between the mass fainting and working conditions, and that the fainting was a result of shock. After one or two women collapsed, the others panicked and followed suit, he explained.

“We will allow them to stop working for two days. They will return to work on Thursday,” Un Chhan Teak said.

Two mass fainting incidents earlier this month at a Phnom Penh garment factory drew a joint inspection from officials at the ministries of environment, health and labour.

They attributed the incidents to fright and lack of sleep, saying they found nothing abnormal at Zhen Tai Garment’s factory.

A factory supplying sportswear giant Puma was hit by fainting twice this year: at the end of last month and in April. The second incident prompted Puma to release a statement saying it was taking the incident “very seriously” and that it would introduce an “improvement plan”.  

Union leaders have said garment workers are cutting back on food and working longer hours to make ends meet. Garment workers earn US$61 a month for 48 hours a week of work at factories that have licences to export.

Kampong Chhnang Provincial Hospital director Sou Rin Ravuthy said doctors believed the women fainted from a variety of factors: fatigue, insufficient food and shock from seeing colleagues drop unconscious.  

He said some workers recovered quickly and left for home after receiving serum and medicine. “We checked their blood pressure and oxygen, and they were normal,” he said. “It was not caused by a bad factory environment or chemical sprays,” Sou Rin Ravuthy said.

Noun Chhenghour said it was the fourth time workers had fainted in the factory, and that about 100 workers had fainted on the same date last year.

Pov Sitha, director of the provincial labour department, could not be reached for comment.

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