RPT-Cambodia probes mass fainting of workers at Puma suppliers

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By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH, April 10 (Reuters) – Cambodian authorities began
an investigation on Sunday into the mass fainting of about 800
workers at two factories that produce footwear for German
sporting goods group Puma .

Workers suddenly fell sick on Saturday night and again on
Sunday morning at Universal Apparel (Cambodia) Co Ltd and Huey
Chuen (Cambodia) Corp Ltd, which labour officials and workers
identified as suppliers to Puma.

“I was just feeling exhausted and dizzy,” Keopich Panha, a
hospitalised 19-year-old shoe stitcher at Huey Chuen.

Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naruth told Reuters his
officers and the Labour Ministry were investigating the
factories, where workers such as Keopich Panha typically earn
about $61 a month.

“It could have been the workers were too tired. We will also
look at work environment issues and whether there was enough air
or oxygen,” he added. “We don’t know the conclusion yet.”

Worker Soeum Ny, 24, said the smell from materials used in
the manufacturing of sport shoes may have made workers sick.

“We are used to it now. This affects our health but there is
nothing we can do,” she said.

Moeun Tola, head of the labour unit at the nonprofit
Community Legal Education Center, said mass fainting is a
problem in Cambodia’s textile industry because rules requiring
factories to be monitored are not enforced.

“The government has to strictly monitor these factories,”
Moeun Tola said.

Garment manufacturing is Cambodia’s third-biggest currency
earner after agriculture and tourism. More than 210,000 textile
workers went on strike last year over the government’s attempt
to regulate trade unions.

Cambodian factories produce clothes for many Western brands,
including Gap Inc , Nike Inc and Inditex Group
, the world’s biggest clothing retailer and owner of
Zara.

Officials at Puma were not immediately available to comment.

(Editing by Jason Szep and Miral Fahmy)

RPT-Cambodia probes mass fainting of workers at Puma suppliers