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Workers return after 'black car' scare factory

Workers return after 'black car' scare factory

Police and industry officials have dismissed a rumor that circulated through the

ranks of garment workers in recent weeks, frightening workers from the workplace

and sending shock-waves through the Kingdom's most important business sector.

Touch Naruth, Phnom Penh municipal police chief, denied the so-called "black

car" rumor, and appealed for garment workers to return to work. Naruth said

authorities are investigating the case and will arrest anyone proven to be the origin

of the disinformation.

Turmoil reigned for several days in early July as word spread of an ominous black

sedan with mirrored windows that was abducting nighttime workers as they left their

factories in Phnom Penh's Dangkor district.

Two gruesome versions of the rumor took hold. One was that the women were murdered

for their kidneys, which were then sold. The other was that the victims' bodies were

used in the construction of bridges-a superstition from the Lon Nol-era that their

ghosts would protect the structure.

Fear spread by word of mouth to factories throughout the capital. There were reports

of young women fleeing the capital and of parents from the provinces arriving to

retrieve their daughters.

"There is no specific evidence related to the capture of nighttime garment workers,"

Naruth said. "It is an absolute rumor."

Ken Loo, secretary general at the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia,

held a press conference alongside municipal officials on July 3 and dismissed the

rumors as untrue. He pleaded for workers to return to their jobs and pledged that

the government and authorities would be there to protect them

The same day a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior denied a specific rumor that

a black car with tinted windows captured three garment workers from a factory in

Dangkor on July 2.

Pa Socheatevong, deputy governor of Phnom Penh municipal, said the rumor would not

lead to the closing of any factories but it had affected to the production process

as workers had stopped arriving regularly.

"The rumor did not occur incidentally, it is an intentional rumor," Socheatevong

said. "We are searching now and will apprehend the person who initiated the

idea."

Socheatevong said the rumor might relate to an amendment to the labor law approved

by the National Assembly last month. Unions protested the amendment because it reduced

the overtime salary of night workers from 200 percent to 130 percent.

"I can't say if the information is true or no. We have investigated but haven't

found any proof," said Mann Senghak, secretary general of the Free Trade Union.

"The workers still feeling scared."

Senghak said union leaders advised workers that the rumor was not to be believed.

"I do not think it's a problem," said Vuth Lyno, communication officer

at the International Labor Organization.

"It will not affect the 330,000 Cambodian workers working at more than 300 factories."

Tieng Srey Pao, 18, employed at a factory near Phnom Penh International Airport,

said her mother took her back home after she heard the information. She stayed away

from the job site until July 8.

"I'm very surprised when I heard the workers were captured," Srey Pao said.

"My mother doesn't want me to come back to work, but I think it is ended now."

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