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Dangerous Commutes Kill Cambodian Garment Workers

Garment workers in Cambodia are facing unsafe working conditions even outside of the factories that employ them.

As many as 70 garment workers were injured Wednesday in Cambodia’s Kampong Speu province when two tires on a truck carrying them to work blew out, causing the truck to overturn with the workers in tow.

Provincial police chief Keo Pisi told the Phnom Penh Post there were no deaths in the incident and that the injured were immediately sent to hospital. He also said the truck turned over because it was going too fast.

Roofless, seatless trucks carrying too many workers because there aren’t stringent—or enforced—laws outlining a passenger limit, are notoriously perilous in Cambodia. The drivers of those privately-owned trucks are also often unlicensed.

But workers who hardly earn a living wage and don’t live close enough to the factories end up with little options outside of those dangerous trucks for transport.

A similar incident to Wednesday’s occurred in the same province in January, that time killing five garment workers when the open-topped truck flipped over as the driver tried to overtake another truck, Cambodia Daily reported. Sixty-seven of the workers bound for the Now Corp factory in Kandal were injured in the accident, 15 of them seriously.

Because factories don’t often own these trucks doesn’t mean they—and the brands that buy from them—should be absolved of all blame.

William Conklin, country director for workers’ rights union Solidarity Center Cambodia, told the Phnom Penh Post that brands and factories should not distance themselves from blame and should consider how their employees travel to work as a part of overall worker safety.

Cambodia needs a systematic approach, one that involves brands, manufacturers, government agencies and traffic law enforcement for there to be any hope of curbing the transportation accidents.

“If there’s no enforcement and there’s no accountability, you can’t really expect the situation to change,” Conklin said.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Labor reportedly said it was “finding a solution” for workers injured Wednesday to get some compensation to help with any medical fees.