An operation by provincial traffic police in Kampong Chhnang that inspected 189 trucks transporting garment workers from Friday to Monday found close to 50 per cent of the drivers did not have a licence.
Provincial police deputy chief Luch Vanara said the operation was conducted in Kampong Tralach and Samaki Meanchey districts.
“During the operation to check licences for drivers transporting garment workers, we found that as many as 50 per cent of them had no driving licence,” Vanara said.
He said the operation was conducted on the instructions of provincial governor Chhour Chandoeun in the wake of two major accidents involving garment workers in the province and a recent accident in neighboring Kampong Speu province in which 70 garment workers were injured after a truck’s tyre exploded.
“In all three of those cases, the drivers did not have a licence,” Vanara said, adding that close to 70 per cent of the province’s 30,000 garment workers used trucks for transportation.
Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU) president Yang Sophorn said she was not surprised by the high number of drivers without licences, and put it down to lax law enforcement.
She added that unlicensed drivers were not only a risk for passengers but bystanders as well.
“Garment workers face the highest risk, because they live far away from factories and have to use trucks to reach work, with unlicensed drivers making it even more risky for them,” Sophorn said.
William Conklin, country director at the labour rights group Solidarity Center, said he welcomed the enforcement of such checks but that the effort needed to be maintained, which would send a signal to drivers to get a licence, maintain their vehicles and not overload them.
In an ideal situation, workers would have safe transport option or live close to their factories, he said, but given that this wasn’t the case, the issue needed to be addressed by all stakeholders including garment manufacturers, brands sourcing from these factories and law enforcement.
“People have to come together to think about viable transport for garment workers, and if they switch away from these owner-operator transporters, we have to see what happens to them as well,” he said.