One of the most dishonorable effects of globalization is the increasing use of the Third World as a sweatshop to manufacture products for First World brands. Last year, the horrors of big business' exploitation of less developed countries made headlines with the collapse of a building in Bangladesh, which killed more than 1,110 workers. The workers produced products for companies such as Walmart and made the world wonder who really was to blame: poor construction or consumerism? On Thursday, we saw another tragedy strike when 118 workers fainted at a series of factories in Cambodia.
The factories manufactured materials for companies such as Puma and Adidas. Reports claim that in the past week over 200 workers have fainted at factories in this region. Although the corporations are looking to blame food poisoning for the mass faintings, workers’ rights groups point to dangerous working conditions, which led to poor health.
The faintings occurred at the Shen Zhou and Daqian Textile factories in the city of Phnom Penh. Many workers reported serious symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. “It was hot and I began to vomit, I had diarrhea and others had the same problems,” Nguon Sarith, a worker hospitalized after falling ill, told The Inqusitr. Both Puma and Adidas are carrying out an investigation to discover what caused workers to fall ill. The companies are analyzing food samples from the factories’ cafeteria to determine if food poisoning was the cause.
This week’s mass sickness is not an isolated case. In 2011 alone, more than 1,000 cases of fainting were reported in Cambodia factories. Safety issues are usually tied to these faintings. Many of the factories use harsh chemicals to manufacture the goods, and the building have poor ventilation systems. In Cambodia, the nearly 650,000 workers bring in annual revenue of $5 billion for the impoverished country. Many see this week’s incident as a sign of a larger problem in the overseas garment industry and remember last year’s disaster in Bangladesh, which claimed 1,100 lives.
Nationwide strikes and anti-government protests have ravaged the country in the past year. In January, police opened fire on a garment employee strike, killing five workers. Another protest is planned for the week of April 17. The workers are demanding an increase in wages from $100 per month to $160. “The health of Cambodian workers is generally poor because with the current wages they cannot make a good living,” Seang Sambath, head of the Worker Friendship Union Federation explained to The Inquisitr.