A woman was killed and five others were seriously injured when a truck carrying about 50 garment workers ran off national road number 4 in Kandal province and overturned on Wednesday night, only one day after a bus crash in Koh Kong killed two and injured more than 40.
Norng Chinda, deputy police chief in Ang Snuol district, said the truck had swerved to avoid another truck stopped on the road at about 7pm.
The driver of the stationary truck had not used lights, the other had not been paying attention – and both had fled on foot, Norng Chinda said.
“It is the carelessness of the drivers,” he said. “We have been trying to arrest the two drivers after learning their identity.”
The woman killed, a 26-year-old, was one of about 50 people crammed into the back of the overturned truck – a mode of transport many young women use to get to and from their factory jobs.
Chhoeun Leang, 29, was one of five women seriously injured and was taken to Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh for medical treatment.
“The truck overturned twice,” she said.
“Workers fell on each other. The next thing I knew, I was unconscious.”
Factory worker Mom Mary, 25, said she could not afford any other mode of transport and paid $10 per month to climb into an overcrowded truck each day.
“Travelling together like this is cheap – but it is very difficult and it is easy to get into an accident. If I don’t use it, I have no choice because I am on a very low salary,” she said.
Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Cambodia, said workers on low wages often had no choice but to pile into the back of small trucks that were old, overloaded and driven by inexperienced drivers.
“The workers don’t want to use a truck with so many people in it, but they’re on a low salary so they have to do it to save money,” he said.
Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said low wages, poor roads and long distances to factories were putting a lot of pressure on young women in the garment industry.
“The government could certainly do more . . . such as building alternative routes,” he said.
“One alternative is for companies to begin sub-contracting and bringing work back to villages,” he said.
“This would put less strain on the road network, which would take unnecessary traffic off the roads . . . reducing the road toll.”
Jill Tucker, chief technical adviser at the International Labour Organisation’s Better Factories Cambodia, said sub-contracting garment work was not viable for many large factories.
“I wish it were. But from what I’ve been told, it’s an energy problem. They can’t get reliable energy sources for big-scale operations,” she said.
“Many garment workers live quite a distance from the factories. A transportation allowance might allow [workers] to take more safe and comfortable forms of transport,” she said.
ILO was about to launch a “one-change” campaign encouraging factories to make a change that was not required by law, but which would benefit employees, she said.
“We would then promote the factory as a ‘one-change’ factory.
“Transportation is certainly one of these issues. It’s not going to change the world, but it’s a small start.”