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Sex charges roil Ocean factory

120823_02

Police clash with striking factory workers employed by Ocean Garment Co Ltd during a protest in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

More than 2,500 Ocean Garment factory workers jostled with about 100 military police in the capital’s Dangkor district yesterday in their second protest march over the alleged sexual harassment of four female employees.

More than half of the factory’s some 4,000 employees marched to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house with a petition, but were stopped about 100 metres away by military police brandishing shields and batons.

In an inter-governmental ministerial committee meeting on Tuesday, Ocean – which supplies retail chain the Gap – refused to meet the sole demand of the striking workers, to terminate the manager.

Yesterday, the women pressed criminal charges, after being on strike since August 11.

One of the four women alleging sexual harassment, Nary – who asked that her family name not be used – told the Post that police forcefully pushed the group back yesterday.

She said the Bangladeshi manager, Faruk Ahmad, had stroked her hand and given her his phone number, asking her to call. When she rejected his advances, he forbid her to work any overtime.

Another worker who did not want to be named, said she had evidence, in the form of a text message, that she had faced sexual harassment from the same man.

“He heard that I needed money and asked me to go out and sleep with him for $20 a night. I told him I needed the money from my work, not sex,” she said.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said he was disappointed the company had failed to find a solution for the workers.

Meanwhile, Better Factories Cambodia technical adviser Jill Tucker said she was concerned by the allegations.

“Just because we do not detect it as much as other countries, doesn’t mean it is not happening. It’s difficult to get people to talk.”

Tucker added that Better Factories would visit the factory for an investigation on Friday, and that Gap had contacted her with concerns.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mom Kunthear at kunthear.mom@phnompenhpost.com
Claire Knox at newsroom@phnompenhpost.com

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