| PHNOM PENH
PHNOM PENH Aug 25 Nearly 300 Cambodian workers
fell sick this week at a garment factory producing goods for
Swedish fashion brand Hennes & Mauritz AB (HMb.ST) (H&M), police
said on Thursday.
A total 284 workers collapsed on Tuesday and Thursday at M&V
International Manufacturing Ltd, a supplier for H&M, in Kompong
Chhnang province, 91 km (56 miles) from the capital Phnom Penh,
police said. Some reported a pungent smell before fainting.
"Workers smelled something bad coming from the shirts," said
26-year-old Norn Leakhena, a worker at the factory.
Deputy provincial police chief Ly Virak blamed the mass
faintings on the "weak" health of workers and said the factory
suspended operations until next week to allow its 4,000 workers
He said 86 workers fell sick on Tuesday and another 198
collapsed on Thursday.
"When one worker collapsed, others also fell sick," he said.
H&M said it was investigating the faintings and said the
government, local authorities and the U.N.'s International
Labour Organisation had "not found any plausible causes so far."
"The root cause of the mass faintings is difficult to
establish," Håcan Andersson, a H&M spokesman, said in an
In July, H&M said that it was consulting state agencies,
workers and independent factory inspectors to find out what
happened at a different factory in Phnom Penh after about 300
workers fell sick.
Some big Western brands have launched investigations into
what non-governmental organisations say are more than 1,000
faintings this year by garment workers toiling for long hours on
meagre salaries to help feed hundreds of thousands of poor rural
Among the big Western firms with clothing or other goods
produced in Cambodia are Marks and Spencer Group Plc ,
Tesco Plc , Next Plc and Inditex , the
world's biggest clothing retailer and owner of Zara.
A report in April by Reuters about a spate of illnesses at a
factory producing footwear exclusively for Puma
prompted the German sports brand to commission an independent
inquiry by the Washington-based Fair Labor Association.
It concluded there was a "strong possibility" that an
estimated 104 faintings over a two-day period were caused by
exposure to chemicals, poor ventilation and exhaustion from
Following the report's release, Puma moved swiftly,
producing a plan limiting working time at a factory employing
3,400 people to 60 hours per week and overtime to two hours
The garment sector, Cambodia's-largest currency earner
followed by agriculture and tourism, has been plagued by strikes
and protests over working conditions and pay, several spiralling
into clashes between the mostly female employees and riot police
armed with guns and electric stun batons.
"In the beginning, the smell was fine but after years,
workers can't take anymore," said Norn Leakhena at the M&V
(Editing by Jason Szep and Sanjeev Miglani)