T ONLE BET, KAMPONG CHAM - Workers at a wood processing factory here complain
they are being exploited by cruel bosses who make them work in dangerous
Injuries - including the loss of toes or fingers - regularly
occur at the factory, according to staff.
Two workers are said to have
died this year, one after being hit by falling machinery and the other after
being refused leave to visit a doctor for treatment for a fever.
factory's owner, the Chinese company Mieng Ly Heng Import Export, denied the
allegations. A spokesman said the factory had a good safety record.
workers told the Post that many injuries had been caused by the heavy iron
rollers and cutting equipment used at the factory, which produces timber
They said that the rollers often fell off their carriers,
hitting staff, while the cutters slipped and sliced into the hands or feet of
workers. Injuries were particularly common with tired staff who were working
One worker, who spoke on condition she was not named, said
injuries happened most weeks. The factory had no medical clinic and supervisors
were reluctant to let staff leave work to find a doctor unless they were
She said two workers had died this year. Sien Nary, 24,
had died a few days after being struck on the back by a falling roller. Vuth
Chantha, 28, died from a severe fever one day after the company finally gave her
permission to leave the factory to see a doctor. For several days earlier, her
supervisor had maintained that she was fit to work.
The worker who spoke
to the Post said company officials had said they would not pay any compensation
to the families of staff who died outside the factory.
"They are very
clever. You know sometimes the workers do not die instantly in the place after
the accident, they must go to hospital or their houses."
She said one
worker who was hurt after falling from a wall last year received 50,000 riel
Others had received nothing. She herself had the tip of one
toe sliced off in an accident, and on another occasion had been struck on the
chest by a roller.
The company reduced the salary of workers who were off
work after being injured, and threatened to dismiss them if they were away for
more than three days, she said.
Another worker showed the Post her
finger, cut off at the first joint in what she said was a workplace
She also told the story of a colleague refused permission to
leave the factory after cutting her finger to the bone.
supervisor, angry that she was crying and had stopped work after the accident,
grabbed a wood cutter and sliced off her injured finger completely, she
The Mieng Ly Heng factory, which opened in April last year, has
more than 300 staff.
Workers said they had asked to work 8 hours a day,
but the company insisted, on threat of dismissal, that they do three hours
A Post reporter attempted to enter the factory but was stopped
At the Mieng Ly Heng Import Export company's office in Phnom
Penh, spokesman Sok Ny denied all the workers' complaints.
He said the
factory did not have a history of accidents, and it was impossible for workers
to cut their fingers or hands.
He believed the Post had confused his
factory with a neighboring Malaysian-owned sawmill, where he said there had been
some accidents. Workers, however, later confirmed it was the Mieng Ly Heng
factory they worked at.
Sok Ny said there had been only one accident at
the factory, when an iron roller fell on a worker's back last year. The worker
had since returned to employment there.
He said his company followed
Cambodian law and had been in touch with the Ministry of Social Action to see
what working conditions it should offer.
Hout Chanthy, head of the
ministry's Department of Labor Inspection, did not know of the Mieng Ly Heng
sawmill but said action could be taken against any employer who abused their
He said that, under the law, employers had to pay compensation for
workers who died or were disabled in workplace accidents.
Of some 294
companies his ministry had been in contact with, only about half of them were
fully obeying the law's provisions, he said.