As Western retailers such as H&M, Zara, Tesco and others decided to support new safety regulations in Bangladesh garment factories following the building collapse that kill over 1,100 people, it is now Cambodia’s turn to wake up under wreckage.
Around 7.20am this morning the ceiling of the Wing Star shoe factory of the Western province of Kompong Speu collapsed as workers were entering the building to start their shift. The number of casualties is not yet confirmed but early reports indicated at least two workers killed and six or 7 others severely injured. The Cambodia Daily managed to talk to a local official saying that an unknown number of workers remain trapped under the wreckage, but other reports estimated the number of trapped at about 50.
“Two died, a male and a female worker, and six are in critical condition,” the Kong Pisei district governor Ma Savath told the Daily today. He said that more than 2,000 workers are employed at the factory complex, which consists of several buildings. According to local testimonies, about two hundred workers were on site when the ceiling of the building collapsed.
The Cambodia Daily also talked to Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC),who confirmed that the factory was a member of his organization. The number of companies registering to GMAC doubled in 2012. As of today, 39 companies producing shoes are members of the organisation. According to The Phnom Penh Post, workers from the factory already protested poor working conditions and pay in March when they stopped working and blocked a main road.
Win Star Shoes Co. Ltd produces shoes imported to the US and Europe. In 2012, more than $4 billion worth of products were shipped to the United States and Europe. Since 2006, Cambodia is part of the European initiative called “Everything But Arms” that allows Least Developed Countries (LDC) to import duty free and quota free with exception to armaments. This boosted the Cambodian garment sector. Thanks to this Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme, exports to the EU grew twice as much as exports to any other of Cambodia’s trading partners in 2012. Economists say that it would not be surprising if exports to the EU soon made up half of all Cambodia’s exports, with garments leading the way. As of November, 45 Cambodian factories exported footwear with a combined value of $268.7 million, according to estimates of the Ministry of Commerce.