The Commerce Ministry says that the garment sector is losing out to employee theft and that it will act against vendors selling contraband clothes
Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
A vendor at Phnom Penh's Russian market. The government claims that many garments on sale are stolen from local factories.
CAMBODIAN authorities are set to crack down on the sale at Russian market of clothing stolen from garment factories, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh has told the Post.
"We will not allow the continued sale of stolen garments at domestic market stalls," he said Monday.
The Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) estimates that as much as three percent of garments made in factories is stolen, while items locally-manufactured for The Gap and other international companies have become a staple of clothing stalls at Russian market and other Phnom Penh shopping centres.
Cham Prasidh said that at least three international companies have stopped purchasing Cambodian garments because the government failed to halt the sale of contraband clothing.
"We will enact serious measures to ban the illegal sale of clothing in Tuol Tompung. We do not know where these garments come from or whether appropriate taxes have been paid on them," he said.
we will enact serious measures to ban the illegal sale of clothing.
Cham Prasidh said that he met buyers from The Gap, Nike and other international manufacturers last Friday to reassure them that the government will stop their products from ending up in domestic markets.
He added that garment theft posed a much greater threat to Cambodia's labour markets than union strikes.
"We think the issue of ... strikes are small compared to the sale of stolen products at our city markets," he said.
Cham Prasidh said he also urged international buyers to continue their business in Cambodia because the Kingdom had a good record with labour compliance and defending workers rights.
He acknowledged that garment exports had declined slightly, but said that the government does not believe there will be a serious drop.
A factory problem
Chea Socheat, a vendor at Russian market, admitted on Tuesday that she sells factory garments, but said the government needs to address the issue with factories rather than market vendors.
"I think the Ministry of Commerce should take measures to protect the garments at the factory, not when they are already in the markets," she said.
But Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, welcomed the government's proposed crackdown. However, he predicted it would have little success.
"I don't think the government can stop the stealing because corrupt officials are in league with factory managers," he said.
He said the majority of stolen garments come from Chinese managers, with only a small percentage coming directly from Cambodian workers.
He said that FTU figures indicate that four Cambodian factories have been targeted by garment theft.
Kaing Monika, external affairs manager for GMAC, said theft is a serious problem, with products ending up in Cambodia as well as Thailand. He said Cambodia has 30 international buyers for the US and the EU. "Greater effort by the government could end the problem," he said.