Well this headline may be a bit misleading because I am sure many factories in Cambodia are complying to labour laws as much as I am sure many are not. And this is not a guide to go-go dancers. I am just mentioning them in the labour context.
Thailand has lost a lot of its ‘rag trade ‘to Cambodia over the last few years, so gone are the days when I was sneaking into factories where Thai workers made Reebok shoes or clothing and stuffed toys for Walt Disney.
A story I did on the former prompted a car load of Reebok lawyers to speed up Britain’s M6 to threaten a Scottish newspaper.
The lawyers were put in their place however by a series of pictures showing how Patpong bar girls earned more in just a few hours than the Reebok factory girls earned in a month – after being hired to entertain a delegation of worldwide vice-presidents of Reebok in Bangkok for a convention.
They hired the pride of the fleet and took the women up the Chao Phraya River.
I remember it vividly because the picture editor at the time was on the blower (pardon me) at the time. I am not sure I should quote this on a respectable site, but I will.
“Hows it gaun Andy – Dinnae fash yoursel but have you got any mere photees of the birds on HMS Willysuck?”
As for the Walt Disney products – well that was for the BBC’s Sue Lloyd Roberts – known in the business as SLR – self-loading rifle. Actually after a couple of conversations and a meeting with SLR and union reps I bowed out and got a friend to take my place.
But after a few days of demands from the unions, which were apparently not being met, she asked me to come back and drive her to the ‘sweat shop’ where the products were made, which I did in a rattling Suzuki Caribbean.
Sue Lloyd-Roberts is of course a gutsy Emmy award winning journalist and I may have been too Thai in my suggestions as to how the problem should approached.
Anyway nowadays there are labour organisations which list all the likely culprits and no doubt some better places too. An excellent listing has been made by the Cambodian organisation www.sithi.org and can be found here.
The map details a total of at least 558 garment factories operating in Cambodia; some factories do not have sufficiently required information to be included in this research. The owners of these factories are based in Cambodia as well as from a number of foreign countries, including Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Macau, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, the Netherlands, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Turkey.
Of these 558 factories, 394 are located in the capital city of Phnom Penh, 82 in Kandal province, 28 in Kampong Speu province and 16 in Sihanoukville province. The other 38 are located in Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, Kampot, Koh Kong, Siem Reap, Svay Rieng and Takeo provinces. These 558 factories employ at least 475,107 workers; some of the factories do not report the number of employees.
At least 95 of the factories on the map are reported to have produced and supplied products to major international brands, including, but not limited to, Adidas, Calvin Klein, Clarks, H&M, Levi’s, Macy, Nike, Old Navy, Puma, Reebok, The Gap and Wal-Mart.