NINETEEN Phnom Penh garment factories opened on the outskirts of the capital in the first quarter of this year, according to data from the Ministry of Labour.
"We welcome newly opened factories, because they help create jobs for workers who lost employment when previous factories closed," said Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour.
The 19 factories, Oum Mean said, will employ 6,069 people, helping to offset the closing of 46 garment factories that led to the loss of 21,400 jobs in the first three months of this year, according to official figures.
Despite the 19 factories that will continue production at new locations in the capital, Cheath Khemara, a labour affairs official for the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) predicted that the garment sector's woes would continue indefinitely.
"It will be difficult to attract new factories to Cambodia given the current situation," he said, blaming labour strikes for scaring off investors.
Bun Var, general manager of Jit Textile - one of the factories that reopened - said he will provide 1,600 jobs this year, adding that the future of the sector was generally unknowable given current uncertainty.
"No one can predict the business lifespan of a new factory," he said.
Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said that garment exports are down compared with last year but that volume over the peak season will determine how 2009 compares with previous years.
"We hope that garment exports will be about the same as last year because most orders are due for the hot season. Exports [usually] strongly increase in May and June," Cham Prasidh said.