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One arrested for ‘negligence’ after blast at Levi’s supplier

Khy Srey Moa, 23, one of seven victims rushed to Preah Kossamak Hospital after she was injured in an explosion at a Chinese-owned factory on Wednesday in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district.
Khy Srey Moa, 23, one of seven victims rushed to Preah Kossamak Hospital after she was injured in an explosion at a Chinese-owned factory on Wednesday in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district. Pha Lina

One arrested for ‘negligence’ after blast at Levi’s supplier

Following the deadly explosion at Levi’s supplier Zhen Tai Garment factory in the capital’s Sen Sok district on Wednesday, authorities yesterday arrested a factory employee for alleged negligence.

The blast, which occurred in an industrial boiler and sent large pieces of debris flying for some 100 metres, killed Kor Samon, 48, and injured seven others.

“We have detained a worker … for being careless,” district police chief Mak Hong said yesterday, adding that he was unaware of the specifics of the boiler from which the blast originated.

Authorities are for now only prosecuting one suspect, who will be sent to court today. “He failed to check [the machine]. It is just like when you ride a motorbike and hit someone, so it is about carelessness,” Hong said.

Phnom Penh Thmey commune chief Chum Saray, however, noted yesterday that the nearly 5,000-litre boiler tank itself appeared to be in poor condition, and “was very old and rusty and had cracks from long use”.

Aware that the arrest had been made, Levi Strauss & Co said that they were looking into the incident.

“We are involved in an ongoing investigation with the factory owner, local authorities and the International Labor Organisation’s Better Factories Cambodia [BFC] program,” the company said in a statement. “At this time it’s too early to confirm any specifics related to the cause of the accident.”

Esther Germans, program manager for BFC, who visited the factory yesterday, said there had been “a problem with the valve of the boiler, which failed to automatically release pressure when it had to, causing the explosion”.

“During BFC’s assessment in December [2016], the safety certificate for the boiler was still valid,” she wrote in an email. “We have heard that the operator has been with the police since yesterday as part of the investigation process … No critical issues were found during our two days assessment [last year].”

Cheav Bunrith, director of the policy division at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), yesterday said the family of deceased worker Samon will receive monthly compensation; the seven injured workers will have their treatment costs covered and will receive their usual wage while hospitalised. The factory will remain shut while an NSSF team inspects it, he added.

Preah Kossamak Hospital staff confirmed the seven injured are not in life-threatening condition. The most seriously injured among them, 23-year-old Khy Srey Moa, who is four months pregnant, will undergo surgery today. “She needs to do an operation in two places on her leg,” Dr Var Ratanak said yesterday.

Sadly, the operation poses a high risk of mortality for her unborn child, he added.

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