Roof Collapse at Cambodian Shoe Plant Kills Three: Minister

A factory in Phnom Penh. Cambodian companies have positioned themselves as low-cost, reliable manufacturers.
Andrea Pistolesi | Getty Images
A factory in Phnom Penh. Cambodian companies have positioned themselves as low-cost, reliable manufacturers.

Three people were killed when the ceiling of a warehouse fell in at a shoe factory in Cambodia, a government minister said on Thursday, adding to concerns about safety standards at Asian factories producing cheap clothing.

Cambodia has seen a rush of investment in recent years, especially into the shoe and garment sector, with Western and Asian firms attracted by its low-cost labour. The International Monetary Fund says garments account for about 80 percent of the Southeast Asian nation's exports.

Ith Sam Heng, minister of social affairs, told Reuters another six people had been injured in the incident at the plant in the Kong Pisei district of Kampong Speu province, 50 km (30 miles) west of the capital, Phnom Penh.

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"We will investigate the case and we will take measures against those involved," he said, meaning anyone who might be held responsible for poor safety standards.

He said no one remained trapped inside the building.

Earlier, a trade union member at the factory had said six people had died in the collapse, which happened at around 7 a.m. (2400 GMT on Wednesday)

The shoe factory, owned by Wing Star Shoes Co Ltd, a Taiwan company, employed around 7,000 people but only around 100 worked in the single-storey warehouse, according to staff.

Work at the plant had stopped and Reuters witnesses saw employees leaving the main factory on Thursday.

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A Reuters reporter saw footwear bearing the name "Asics" scattered around the damaged warehouse, where a bulldozer was clearing away rubble.

A spokeswoman for Japanese sportswear maker Asics Corp <7936.T> was unable to comment immediately on the incident and said the company was seeking more information.

Asics relies on sports shoes for about two-thirds of its sales, which amounted to 57.33 billion yen ($559.73 million) company-wide in the year to March 31, 2013.

Strikes over pay and poor working conditions are common in Cambodia which, like Bangladesh, is home to numerous factories producing clothing cheaply for Western retailers.

(Read More: After Bangladesh, Top Brands Seek New Venues)

A series of deadly incidents at factories in Bangladesh has focused global attention on safety standards in the country's booming garment industry, the world's biggest exporter of clothing after China.

An eight-story complex of factories housing garment manufacturers collapsed in Bangladesh on April 24, killing more than 1,100 people. That has sparked campaigns in the West to improve safety conditions at plants in the country supplying Western brand names.

The Phnom Penh Post, a Cambodian daily newspaper, reported on March 22 that employees at the Wing Star plant had stopped work and blocked a main road for about an hour in a protest over wages and working conditions.