Cambodia factory operator admits ‘neglect’ after deaths

Cambodia factory operator admits ‘neglect’ after deaths

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – The operator of a Cambodian shoe factory where two workers were killed this week when a ceiling collapsed admitted on Friday, May 17, to neglecting staff safety and vowed to take full responsibility.

Eleven other people were injured in Thursday’s, May 16, incident at the Taiwanese-owned Wing Star facility, which makes shoes for Japanese sports brand Asics.

“For the neglect that led to this unintentional incident, the company will take full responsibility for the families of the dead and injured,” Wing Star said in a statement on Friday without specifying whether it would offer compensation.

The accident added to concerns about safety in Asia’s garment industry after a factory collapse last month in Bangladesh killed 1,127 people in one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.

The deaths at the Cambodian factory, which is located in the village of Angsokun 50 kilometers south of Phnom Penh, prompted a pledge by the Cambodian government and manufacturers to inspect all garment plants in the kingdom.

“We have to learn from this experience,” Van Sou Ieng, chairman of the Garment Manufacturers’ Association of Cambodia, told reporters on Friday, adding that he would ask all factories to have engineers examine their buildings.

Last month’s tragedy in Bangladesh has put pressure on Western retailers that rely on cheap labor in the region, where safety standards are often inadequate.

Cambodia earned $4.6 billion from its garment exports last year but a series of strikes has highlighted discontent at low wages and tough conditions.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the number of Cambodian footwear factories increased from 25 in 2009 to 45 in 2012, with total exports of nearly $270 million.

The monthly minimum wage for the hundreds of thousands of workers who make clothes for firms such as Levi Strauss of the US and Sweden’s H&M this week rose from $61 to $75, plus $5 for healthcare, after months of protest.