Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Stories vary on latest mass fainting incident

Stories vary on latest mass fainting incident

Stories vary on latest mass fainting incident

Workers at a garment factory in Kampong Speu province that supplies global retailer H&M will return to work tomorrow, after more than 100 staff were hopitalised on Monday, following what they and union representatives described as a mass fainting incident.

A spokesperson for H&M’s headquarters in Sweden, however, yesterday denied that the fainting had occurred. “Our staff have visited the … factory and we can now say that no mass faintings occurred at Anful [on] Monday,” Anna Eriksson told the Post. “Rather, the workers felt stressed after unfamiliar sounds from an exhaust fan,” she said by email.

Eriksson later clarified her statement, saying “it seems to be mass sickness, rather than mass fainting, since workers reported to have felt weak, dizzy and nauseous”, adding that “132 workers [were] treated in hospital for these symptoms”.

The Hong Kong-owned company opened four months ago and has nearly tripled its workforce from 350 workers to about 900 now, said Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Makers Association of Cambodia.

Loo also said that the media sensationalised the fainting incidents. “The numbers are always exaggerated and there is a ‘shock and awe’ element”, in the reporting, he said, adding that the faintings “are a concern of GMAC, but they do not fall high on the agenda”.

Soun Sopheap, an administrative worker at the factory, said only two workers had fainted and the rest were hospitalised because they felt weak in the hands and knees, and were terrified by the sight of two workers collapsing.

David Welsh, country director of the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity, said that a team of investigators had interviewed factory staff yesterday and confirmed that more than 100 workers had fainted on Monday morning. “It was a combination of fumes from insecticide and poor ventilation” that caused the fainting, he said.

A spokesperson for the International Labour Organisation’s Better Factories Cambodia program said its monitoring team was investigating the “fainting incident” at the factory. Ying Bun also said that the ILO had an in-depth investigation into the mass incidents. It is being led by the ILO’s Decent Work team and includes a public health specialist from the World Health Organisation, he said.

Despite the attention, the fainting incidents have drawn, Ken Loo said they would not result in global buyers shifting to suppliers in other countries. “Buyers are not going to shy away from Cambodia because of this, but they will take more steps to prevent it from occurring,” he said. “What frightens buyers is strikes.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom may hire Turkish power ship

    Cambodia is considering negotiating with Turkey to hire a 200MW-capacity power ship to meet electricity demands as the country faces an ongoing electrical shortage, according to the prime minister. Speaking to garment workers in Pursat province on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Electricite du

  • ‘Kingdom lacks up to 400MW in available electricity’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the general public, hoteliers and businesspeople with generators to use them as back-up as the Electricity Authority of Cambodia cannot generate enough electricity to meet needs due to low water levels in power station reservoirs. On Saturday evening

  • EDC tackles power shortfall

    Electrcite Du Cambodge (EDC) on Monday issued a statement updating the public on its efforts to tackle insufficient electricity supplies during the ongoing dry season. Reductions in electricity prices have resulted in a steady increase in consumers in the Kingdom, while local and international investors

  • African swine fever spreads to VN-Cambodia border

    African swine fever has spread to parts of Vietnam that border Cambodia’s Ratanakkiri and Kratie provinces, a Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official said on Friday. Tan Phannara, the General Directorate of Animal Health and Production director-general, told a Phnom Penh workshop that