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Asics to pay out victims’ families

The body of former Wing Star Shoes factory employee Kim Dany
The body of former Wing Star Shoes factory employee Kim Dany is surrounded by family and community members in her home in Kampong Speu province in May. SHANE WORRELL

Asics to pay out victims’ families

Japanese footwear company Asics has agreed to pay the families of two factory workers killed in the Wing Star shoes ceiling collapse on May 16 an undisclosed but “sizeble” amount of compensation, the company and labour groups said on Saturday.

While announcing the payouts – possibly tens of thousands of dollars – Asics Corp. senior executive officer Ron Pietersen also revealed to the Post that a birth certificate listed victim Kim Dany as being only 13 years old, not 15.

“We agreed with all parties concerned that it’s not in the best interests of the families [to reveal the compensation figure]. For us, there’s nothing [financially] to be ashamed of,” Pietersen said.

Pietersen, whose company is the sole buyer from the Wing Star factory in Kampong Speu, called on the government to also “take responsibility” by paying the families of Dany and Rim Roeun, 22, any money they are entitled to under the National Social Security Fund.

“I think we did what our responsibility is,” Pietersen said. “If there is a responsibility for the NSSF, take your responsibility.”

Dany’s father, Korn Vet, 45, said he was pleased with the outcome.

“I met Asics officials on Saturday along with Rim Roeun’s mother and wife. Both families are happy with the compensation. It is fair,” he said.

“I’ve asked ACILS [the American Center for Labor Solidarity] to help me with NSSF payments. But compensation is not something I want to think about. My daughter is gone and we cannot bring her back.”

Pietersen said Asics had not demanded anyone at Wing Star be held responsible for the collapse of the unauthorised storage level. “[The police] should point out who is guilty and who is not guilty,” he said. “It’s not like I can jump in and say, ‘you’re out’.” [But] we should make some kind of tribunal to find out who did what.”

Pietersen said his officials had visited Wing Star’s sister factory, Ying Dong Shoes, to address issues after the Post reported allegations on May 29 that workers as young as 13 were making Asics shoes.

But Pietersen said it was unclear how old Dany – who was using a fake ID to work at Wing Star – had been. “I haven’t seen documents, but our lawyer here has. He has seen a birth certificate [saying she was 13].”

He was concerned Dany’s age could compromise her parents’ attempts at receiving compensation from the NSSF.

Dany’s father said yesterday his daughter was born in 1999.

Dave Welsh, country manager for Solidarity Center/ACILS, which, along with Better Factories Cambodia initiated discussions with Asics, had previously told the Post the families could be eligible for more than $50,000 in compensation, based on a model used in Bangladesh. He said yesterday that Asics had fulfilled its obligations by paying an amount that “by Cambodian standards is sizeable”.

It was now the NSSF’s responsibility to follow with payments. “This is a system that is generated by monthly payments from some of the poorest workers in the world,” he said. “There’s a clear obligation.”

The NSSF could not be reached yesterday.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHHAY CHANNYDA

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