By Tang Chhin Sothy (AFP)
KAMPONG SPEU, Cambodia — A ceiling collapse at a Cambodian shoe
factory killed two workers Thursday, spurring a government vow to
inspect all garment plants amid heightened safety fears after last
month's disaster in Bangladesh.
Local rescue teams, helped by
soldiers, scrambled to search through the rubble of the fallen structure
early Thursday, which appeared to have been on a mezzanine level laden
with crates of trainers and canvas shoes.
Khem Pannara, district
police chief for the area in the southern province of Kampong Speu, said
two staff members were killed and at least 11 injured, some seriously,
adding that the rescue operation had ended.
He said the concrete
ceiling had likely collapsed because it could not hold the weight of
equipment stored on it due to "poor construction".
government said the owner of the "Wing Star Shoes" factory, which
employs more than 7,000 people, would have to take responsibility for
"We will investigate the incident and take measures
against those involved," minister of social affairs Ith Samheng told
reporters, adding: "We will examine all factories to prevent this kind
of incident from happening again."
Last month a nine-storey
factory complex outside Dhaka collapsed, killing 1,127 people in one of
the world's worst industrial disasters. The tragedy put pressure on
Western retailers that rely on cheap labour in the region, where safety
standards are often inadequate.
Say Sokny of Cambodia's Free Trade
Union, a national body for garment and other industrial workers, said
the factory is Taiwanese-owned and produces shoes for Japanese sports
The owner was questioned Thursday to find out whether
there was a permit for the construction and how the factory -- in
Angsokun village, 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Phnom Penh -- was
built, according to national police spokesman Kirt Chantharith.
one employee said more than 100 people work in that area of the plant
each day, although she did not know how many had been there at the time
of the collapse.
"I was so shocked. I am crying. I saw blood in the debris," Sokny, 29, told AFP.
Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, welcomed the
government plan to inspect garment plants across the country.
applaud any measures to investigate the buildings of all factories to
ensure safety for workers, but officials have to do it thoroughly and
not accept bribes," he said, warning that corruption could undermine
"Garment factories in Cambodia do not meet international
safety standards because the quality of the buildings are not ensured
and people have been working with a high risk of danger," he told AFP
"It happened in Bangladesh recently and now it has
happened in Cambodia. We are very worried about the safety of the
workers," he said.
Cambodia earned $4.6 billion from its garment
exports last year but a series of strikes has highlighted festering
discontent at low wages and tough conditions.
Protests by workers
have also turned ugly. Three women, employees of Puma supplier Kaoway
Sports, were wounded when a gunman opened fire on protesters demanding
better working conditions at factories in February last year.
The shooting prompted Puma, Gap and H&M to express their "deep concern" and urged a thorough investigation.
discontent lingers on the factory floor where 400,000 people of the
650,000 people employed in the industry work for foreign firms.
monthly minimum wage for the hundreds of thousands of workers who make
clothes for firms such as Levi Strauss of the United States and Sweden's
H&M this month rose from $61 to $75, plus $5 for health care, after
months of protest.