Death Toll in Svay Rieng Garment Worker Crash Rises to 19

Another garment worker involved in Tuesday’s deadly crash between a tourist bus and a van carrying 38 workers in Svay Rieng province died Thursday at Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh, bringing the total number of dead to 19.

Seventeen garment workers and a driver died on Tuesday after a coach bus belonging to the 15 SH Transport company tried to overtake a car and slammed head-on into the van carrying them to work.

Khim Sopha, 28, said that his wife Morm Son, 29, died Thursday while receiving treatment at Calmette for serious head injuries.

“Doctors tried to work hard to treat my wife, but she could not survive because she suffered massive head injuries,” he said.

Svay Rieng provincial labor department deputy director Ou Sokhoeun also confirmed the worker’s death, saying the death toll had now reached 19.

Garment workers generally receive a $10 per month transportation stipend, which some labor advocates have criticized as meager, saying it forces the workers to risk their lives traveling to and from factories in overloaded truck beds or vans.

Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, on Thursday defended the factories. He said the vans and trucks were private enterprises not linked to the factories and that workers were choosing not to spend their stipends on safer transport.

“We already provide a transportation allowance, but if they choose not to spend it all, there’s nothing we can do,” he said. “It’s not a matter of raising the allowance if they choose to spend it all, which they are not doing.”

The workers were on their way to a number of different factories, including Kingmaker, Elite and Eastern, according to Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, which counted some of its members among the victims.

Silvia Raccagni, a spokeswoman for Adidas, confirmed Thursday that two of the dead passengers worked for Elite, one of the corporation’s suppliers, along with another four who were injured.

“The adidas Group has been in close contact with our supplier, Elite, to ensure the injured workers are properly taken care of, while proper compensation is provided to the families of the victims,” she said.

Thorsten Rolfes, spokesman for retailer C&A, which sources from Eastern, said two of the factory’s workers died due to injuries sustained in the crash and that it should serve as a catalyst for change.

“This incident is a clear call for action from all brands and suppliers to be concerned with safer transport to work for their workers,” he said. “It’s important for all factories to review their current transportation arrangements and make sure it is safe.”

Moeun Tola, labor program head of the Community Legal Education Center, said that the tragedy should spur the government and factories to make sure the country’s 700,000 garment workers can travel to work safely.

“In the absence of public transportation, the government and factories should work together to set up a free, safe transportation system for the workers,” he said.

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