A BRAND-new garment factory, Cheung Hing, opened three months ago in the Bang Salang
quarter of Phnom Penh. It provided jobs for many area residents - but soon proved
to be a health hazard for them as well.
"About a month ago, when the factory burned something, they expelled the smoke
through a pipe," recalled Bun Kuon, 35, who runs a shop outside the factory
gates. "People here suffered from the very bad smell ... many people here fell
sick, headaches, nausea."
Nearby residents said they could not even stay in their houses while the factory
was belching smoke.
"The smell is like burning rubber tyres; it's a very bad smell," said Kang
Mealadey, whose house shares a wall with the factory. "We can hardly breathe
when we smell this smoke."
For about a week, the factory was emitting the thick, black smoke for about half
an hour per day, usually at around 5 pm. Sometimes the exhaust was also seen during
the day, which especially concerned parents of the children at the primary school
The frustrated residents threw stones at the factory wall, then decided to take more
"We complained to the district authorities, and they got them to extend the
[exhaust] pipe," said Bun Kuon. "Now it's okay, no problem."
Second deputy district chief Ket Sany said that he went with municipal environmental
authorities to present the residents' complaints to the factory owner's representative.
"We told the factory that when it runs, it should not do anything to affect
the health of the people in the area," Sany said. "The factory people said
they would take this into account."
He said he had not had any complaints since the factory extended the exhaust pipe,
although he did not know how many meters the pipe had been raised.
He added that neither he nor the environmental authorities had been able to ascertain
what caused the objectionable smoke.
Area residents, and even workers in the factory, said they didn't know what the exhaust
was from either, although some workers reportedly claimed it was from ironing machines
The factory owner, a Mr. Ly, told the Post he was "too busy" to talk about
the problem or explain where the smoke was coming from.
Environmental activists say they are worried that pollution problems - fumes like
this, or dumping of chemicals - could become more commonplace as Cambodia's booming
garment industry continues to grow.
Kang Mealadey shares the misgivings. She admits things are better since the pipe
extension, but is concerned that over time the situation will get worse again.
"Maybe when the factory goes well, they will burn every day and it will get
worse ... we are worried if they burn again."