Police and industry officials have dismissed a rumor that circulated through the
ranks of garment workers in recent weeks, frightening workers from the workplace
and sending shock-waves through the Kingdom's most important business sector.
Touch Naruth, Phnom Penh municipal police chief, denied the so-called "black
car" rumor, and appealed for garment workers to return to work. Naruth said
authorities are investigating the case and will arrest anyone proven to be the origin
of the disinformation.
Turmoil reigned for several days in early July as word spread of an ominous black
sedan with mirrored windows that was abducting nighttime workers as they left their
factories in Phnom Penh's Dangkor district.
Two gruesome versions of the rumor took hold. One was that the women were murdered
for their kidneys, which were then sold. The other was that the victims' bodies were
used in the construction of bridges-a superstition from the Lon Nol-era that their
ghosts would protect the structure.
Fear spread by word of mouth to factories throughout the capital. There were reports
of young women fleeing the capital and of parents from the provinces arriving to
retrieve their daughters.
"There is no specific evidence related to the capture of nighttime garment workers,"
Naruth said. "It is an absolute rumor."
Ken Loo, secretary general at the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia,
held a press conference alongside municipal officials on July 3 and dismissed the
rumors as untrue. He pleaded for workers to return to their jobs and pledged that
the government and authorities would be there to protect them
The same day a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior denied a specific rumor that
a black car with tinted windows captured three garment workers from a factory in
Dangkor on July 2.
Pa Socheatevong, deputy governor of Phnom Penh municipal, said the rumor would not
lead to the closing of any factories but it had affected to the production process
as workers had stopped arriving regularly.
"The rumor did not occur incidentally, it is an intentional rumor," Socheatevong
said. "We are searching now and will apprehend the person who initiated the
Socheatevong said the rumor might relate to an amendment to the labor law approved
by the National Assembly last month. Unions protested the amendment because it reduced
the overtime salary of night workers from 200 percent to 130 percent.
"I can't say if the information is true or no. We have investigated but haven't
found any proof," said Mann Senghak, secretary general of the Free Trade Union.
"The workers still feeling scared."
Senghak said union leaders advised workers that the rumor was not to be believed.
"I do not think it's a problem," said Vuth Lyno, communication officer
at the International Labor Organization.
"It will not affect the 330,000 Cambodian workers working at more than 300 factories."
Tieng Srey Pao, 18, employed at a factory near Phnom Penh International Airport,
said her mother took her back home after she heard the information. She stayed away
from the job site until July 8.
"I'm very surprised when I heard the workers were captured," Srey Pao said.
"My mother doesn't want me to come back to work, but I think it is ended now."