At least 57 garment workers, mostly women, were sent to the hospital yesterday morning after the overloaded truck carrying them to their jobs careened off the road in Svay Rieng province’s Chantrea district.
Police said that the injured workers were among a total of 80 that the standing-room-only vehicle had been carrying to various garment, footwear and other factories in the Bavet town’s highly industrial special economic zone.
Chantrea district police chief Sou Si Thorn said the truck collapsed due to a poorly connected steering wheel, which caused the vehicle to overturn as the driver tried to manoeuvre the heavy load of passengers.
Fifteen workers sustained serious injuries, while 42 were slightly injured, he said, adding that the driver fled the scene.
Koung Thouren, 23, one of the workers being treated for a twisted spine, said that she watched in horror as the vehicle swayed from side to side before collapsing.
“I could not move at all because I was pressed against the vehicle’s wall and weighed down by many passengers,” she said.
“It was lucky. I the vehicle had overturned the other way, into traffic, many workers would have been run over,” said Kong Chantrea, 20, who was hospitalised for leg injuries.
Jill Tucker, chief technical adviser at the International Labour Organization's Better Factories Cambodia, said that previous efforts in Svay Rieng to reduce overloading of workers on trucks had backfired, causing drivers to increase their prices per passenger and thus further burdening workers.
Rather than offering workers money for transportation, however, Tucker said that safe transportation provided by factories would be more likely to prevent road injuries and said that the Ministry of Labour was looking into the issue.
Dave Welsh, country director for the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, agreed that providing more money for transportation was not the best solution.
He said that despite having no direct liability for road accidents involving their workers, factories ought to offer proper housing nearby, which would reduce transportation risks.