Five garment workers lost their limbs while seven others were injured in a collision between a lorry carrying 49 workers and a container truck travelling in the opposite direction on National Road 22 in Kampong Speu province on Thursday.

A provincial police report said the garment workers’ lorry, driven by Sam Chanthy, 25, was transporting the 49 workers – 44 of whom were women – when it collided with a container truck in Khnor Ampil village in Oudong district’s Veal Pong commune.

Chanthy was subsequently arrested and sent to Oudong district police station for questioning, while the container truck driver, whose identity remains unknown, escaped from the scene.

Local authorities said five people lost their hands or arms instantly in the impact and three more were seriously injured. They were sent to Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh.

Four people suffered minor injuries and were admitted to Oudong Referral Hospital. No one was killed in the accident.

Kampong Speu labour department provincial director Chek Borin told The Post on Thursday that the workers were being transported to three different factories in Kampong Chhnang province.

Chanthy allegedly tried to overtake another lorry carrying garment workers but steered into the path of the container truck.

Borin said the five workers lost limbs because they had hung their hands outside the vehicle transporting them.

“The lorry was carrying 49 garment workers, so it was crowded. That’s why some workers put their hands and arms over its side."

“When the two lorries struck each other, it was too crowded and the workers couldn’t pull back their arms, so their hands and arms were severed. The victims’ medical expenses are being paid for by the National Social Security Fund,” he said.

Borin said there are some 1,350 truck drivers in Kampong Speu and the provincial labour department and other relevant parties had frequently educated them about road traffic laws and provided guidance on road safety.

But he said only some truck drivers followed the law, while many did not.

Oudong district police chief Khim Samon said the two trucks were temporarily being held at his police station.

He said that after inspecting the scene and questioning Chanthy, the district police would forward the case to the court, while police are searching for the driver who escaped.

“I cannot conclude anything related to the legal procedures. Only the court can decide,” Samon said.

Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina said it was not enough to just inform and educate drivers about road traffic laws. He said this course of action was not effective.

Sina said authorities should employ additional measures like examining vehicles on the road and taking harsher action against drivers who break the law.

“The local authority should also ascertain on a month-to-month basis how many accidents involved lorries transporting workers in order to ascertain if their numbers were increasing or decreasing."

“And on accident-prone roads, the relevant authorities should take more measures to ensure drivers know that the area is a black spot and that they need to take extra care. We need to conduct surveys frequently,” Sina said.

Labour Ministry spokesperson Heng Sour was unavailable for comment on Thursday.