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Factory workers pull together

Factory workers pull together

A friendly tug-of-war tournament featuring garment-factory workers packed the indoor hall of Olympic Stadium Sunday for a happy day of hard heaving

Maurea Garments factory captain Mua Srey Pau (right) grimaces as she competes with her team in the tug-of-war tournament Sunday in Olympic Stadium.

THERE has been little cause for celebration from the garment industry in recent months, but many factory workers were sporting smiles Sunday at the Kingdom’s inaugural Tug-of-War Day.

Over a thousand workers from Cambodia’s garment sector gathered for a day of friendly competition inside Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium. The event was funded and organised by the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.

The stadium bleachers filled with young women wearing bright pink and yellow shirts, and men in black shirts supplied by GMAC. Friends and family of the competitors were also scattered among the crowd.

Salomao, the traditional musical accompaniment to Cambodian kickboxing, played out as 110 men’s and women’s teams hailing from 24 factories competed in single-elimination heats to decide the country’s strongest factories.

Tug-of-war is traditionally played at temples during Khmer New Year’s celebrations to encourage community bonding. Meas Sarin, undersecretary of state for the ministry, said Sunday’s tournament served a similar purpose.

“I want [garment factory workers] to make friends, enjoy their life, and get a healthy body and healthy mind so they can work longer and produce excellency,” he told the Post from his seat overlooking the event.

In tug-of-war, two teams of 10 people pull on opposite ends of a 37-metre long rope. A piece of tape is secured at the midpoint, with two more pieces 2.5 metres either side. Another piece of tape is laid on the center of the runway to line up with the midpoint, and once tension is made, the referee gives the signal to start pulling. Once the 2.5-metre mark of one of the teams has crossed the centre line, the opposition are awarded victory.

Five tug-of-war runways were laid out side by side on the hall’s wooden floor, with two or three matches happening simultaneously. Teams would trickle out of the crowd when their names were announced over the public address system, and line up for their do-or-die matches, with fellow workers standing close to shout encouragement. Affiliates of the winners stood cheering in the stands or on the floor, hooting, hollering and waving signs emblazoned with the factory’s name.

On the heels of their fourth consecutive victory Sunday, 26-year-old Nou Somaly of Jacqsintex Industries was delighted with her team’s performance. “We showed our power and worked together to win,” she exclaimed as her teammates cheered behind her. “I have a happy heart.”

Mua Srey Pau, 23, who captained the Maurea Garments Corp team, expressed a desire to do well in representing her workplace. “I work hard when I am competing because I want to set an example for my teammates and show that we are the best garment factory,” she declared, adding that her team has been practising for the past month at work.

However, champions of the women’s division Sunday were Island Glory 1, with Go Won 3 placing second, and Vaqsintex 1 coming third. Bloomtime 1 took the men’s trophy, beating Ocean Garments into second, with Samtech 1 taking third.

The ministry has previously held smaller events in other provinces, but this was the first time they brought the event to Olympic Stadium. “We wanted to do something special for garment workers,” Meas Sarin said. “We will do this for many years to come.”

Photos by: Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)