One garment worker dies, 21 faint at Cambodian factory

Garment workers rest after lunch at a factory in Phnom Penh on Oct 8, 2015.
Garment workers rest after lunch at a factory in Phnom Penh on Oct 8, 2015.REUTERS

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - A Cambodian garment worker has died and 21 others have been hospitalised after they fainted at a Chinese-owned factory, local authorities said on Friday, the latest spate of faintings to hit the vital textile industry.

A 21-year-old woman reported dizziness and difficulty breathing on Thursday morning at the Or Sambath Trading factory in eastern Prey Veng province before she fainted and later died at hospital, local governor Duch Kunthea told AFP by telephone.

Twenty-one other workers at the factory fainted later on Thursday evening and Friday with similar symptoms, he said.

"They are still hospitalised. Doctors, labour officials and authorities are investigating the cause of death of the worker," he said.

The factory, which employs more than 1,200 workers, mostly women, has been ordered to close for four days for investigation, Duch Kunthea added.

Mass faintings at Cambodian garment factories are relatively common.

Around 700,000 factory workers form the backbone of the kingdom's multi-billion dollar textile industry, which supplies brands including Gap, Nike and H&M.

Safety worries are rife with periodic mass fainting episodes often blamed on poor health, poor working conditions, bad ventilation or exposure to dangerous chemicals.

Psychologists also say episodes of mass hysteria can be contagious, with crowds of people suddenly feeling ill once others start to show symptoms - especially if they work in high-pressured environments.

Last month, Cambodia said it will raise the minimum monthly wage for garment workers to US$140 (S$197), an increase of nearly 10 per cent, but which fell short of union demands in an industry beset by strikes and protests.