WWD: Cambodia's Garment Sector Plagued by Bewildering Phenomenom

Aug 17, 2015

 A worker returns to work after her lunch break at Quint Major Industrial, the site of several mass faintings in July. (Credit: Dene-Hern Chen)

A worker returns to work after her lunch break at Quint Major Industrial, the site of several mass faintings in July. (Credit: Dene-Hern Chen)

By Dene-Hern Chen and Cheng Sokhorng

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia Last month, Thon Sophana was working on the factory line in Quint Major International factory (QMI) when she was suddenly gripped by an overwhelming sense of dread.

“I felt my hands and my legs become cold, and then I had difficulty breathing,” said the 35-year-old worker. “And then I collapsed.”

Sophana was one of 38 workers who lost consciousness at QMI on July 2, the third day in a week that the manufacturer had seen these mass faintings. But the QMI incident was not an isolated case; in that same week, a total of nearly 400 workers collapsed in four factories across Cambodia.

Mass faintings are a curious phenomenon that regularly plagues Cambodia’s $6 billion garment industry. Last year, the Ministry of Labor recorded that more than 1,800 workers collapsed in 24 factories. Labor activists believe the problem to be far greater, saying that while large numbers typically garner media — and government — attention, the frequency of afflicted workers collapsing in smaller groups is higher, but more difficult to quantify given the secrecy in many factories across the country.

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