Seven men who allegedly bought clothes from garment workers selling off their factory’s stock as compensation for unpaid wages were interrogated by Kampong Speu police yesterday over accusations of buying stolen goods, authorities and workers said.
The seven were arrested on Wednesday in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district in a vehicle transporting children’s clothes they had allegedly bought from around 100 workers at Kampong Speu’s A&J garment factory in Samrong Tong district.
The workers say they were not paid salaries for August and September after their factory’s owner fled.
“We asked the Ministry of Labour to solve the problem so the factory’s stock could be sold to pay workers,” said Soeun Dany, a worker at A&J.
“Then buyers contacted us, so we decided, [in the presence] of police and military officials, to sell the goods for $9,500 at about 3pm on September 30, but at 6pm we heard that the buyers had been arrested and charged with theft.”
Dany said authorities watched on as the garment workers sold the factory’s abandoned stock.
Workers have asked for the release of the seven along with a resolution to their dispute.
However, Chea Vannak, chief of penal police in Kampong Speu, said the sale hadn’t been authorised, and that “people instigated the workers to sell off [the] stock”.
He also confirmed that seven people had been arrested for “buying stolen goods” and were questioned yesterday.
Hing Bunthoeun, deputy president of Khmer Union Federation of Workers Spirit, which represents A&J staff, denied instigating the workers to sell the clothes illegally. He said his union had petitioned the Labour Ministry’s Strike Resolution Committee for a solution to the unpaid salaries.
“The workers unanimously agreed to sell the goods after some workers on the administration side contacted a factory manager who allowed them to sell some things so the workers could improve their living conditions,” he said.
But Tat Song, chief of the Labour Office at the Department of Labour in Kampong Speu, said the workers sold the goods without permission from the committee.
“The ministry is working on their salaries and has a committee to evaluate the factory’s stock, but [the workers] made the decision [to sell] on their own,” he said.