Phnom Penh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Nearly 200 workers of the textile industry in Cambodia have been hospitalized in the last few hours, following a new wave of mass fainting in several factories in the country. The case has once more raised the issue of safety standards in the workplace and, in particular, in the manufacturing sector, where incidents and protests have been staged in the past.
Cheav Bunrith, spokesman for the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), confirms that at least 61 employees of a factory in the southern province of Takeo fainted yesterday. Previously, between June 29 and 30 at least 89 employees of a company in the province of Kandal collapsed and had to seek medical attention. Another 36 passed out on June 30 in a factory on the outskirts of the capital, Phnom Penh.
Regarding the 61 people who fainted in Takeo, Cheav Bunrith reports that some of them "had consumed fermented shrimp for lunch", and later suffered severe headaches, dizziness and fainting. Other workers, seeing their colleagues faint, complained of the same symptoms.
Human rights activists and organizations have repeatedly raised questions and concerns regarding safety in the workplace, after repeated incidents of mass fainting often caused by poor working conditions, inadequate ventilation or use of dangerous chemical solvents.
Union movements and associations in defense of the workers have long been demanding increases the minimum wage and improvements in the security situation, often in vain. "The mass fainting among workers - concludes Cheav Bunrith - are still a source of great concern to us."
Cambodia's garment industry, which employs an estimated 700 thousand people and exported .3 billion of apparel and shoes in 2013, was thrust into the spotlight in January 2014 when police and soldiers cracked down on workers protesting for a higher minimum wage, killing at least five people.
The year before, a shoe factory collapsed, killing at least two workers. The garment industry has been one of the key drivers of the Cambodian economy, which the World Bank forecasts will expand 7.5 percent this year, the fastest pace in all of East Asia.
The problem of safety at the workplace is also common in many Asian countries. In April of 2013 there was international uproar following the Rana Plazatragedy in Bangladesh, a building