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400 Cambodian Garment Workers Experience Unexplained Mass Faintings Within One Week

Aug 17, 2015 06:52 PM EDT
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Garment worker near Hanoi
(Photo : Getty Images/Hoang Dinh Nam ) Garment worker near Hanoi

Last week, nearly 400 workers fainted in four factories across Cambodia. On July 2 alone, 38 workers lost consciousness working at the Quint Major International factory in Phnom Penh. 

WWD reported that in 2014, the Ministry of Labor recorded that more than 1,800 workers collapsed in 24 factories. 

The mass fainting phenomenon — which reached its peek in 2011 — is still a mystery to the Cambodian garment industry. Experts from the International Labor Organization recently concluded that they were caused by a combination of reasons — including poor nutrition, low ventilation and air circulation in factories, and mass psychogenic illness experienced by workers 

"We have been going on a mass education campaign to educate workers on how to take care of their hygiene, and we also educate factories on how to improve the work environment, how to handle the chemical substances," Kaing Monika, deputy secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, told WWD.

"It's about education to workers; it's about stringently enforcing labor compliance," Monika added. 

Cambodia's $6 billion garment industry employs tens of thousands of workers across the country. 

"I've been feeling a bit of pressure because they forced me to meet a new target. In one day, we need to do 400 pieces of clothing, which means that in one hour, we need to finish 40 articles," Sophana, a 35-year-old worker who fainted in QMI factory last month, told WWD. She added that the target used to be 200 pieces a day.

In related news, the police in Bangladesh just officially filed murder charges against 41 people accused of being involved in the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse in Dhaka, which left over 1,100 dead. The owner of the building, Sohel Rana, his parents and at least a dozen government officials are being charged with murder. The indictments could result in the death penalty.

Bangladesh — which is the second largest exporter of garments in the world, after China — exported $18.63 billion worth of garments from July 2014 to March 2015. 

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