60 containers of buttons, zips and textiles for garment factories to arrive in Cambodia’s Sihanoukville from China

Cambodian women working at garment factory in Phnom Penh. KT/Chor Sokunthea. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

PHNOM PENH, Mar 9, 2020, The Khmer Times. Scores of containers filled with buttons, zips and textile from China are scheduled to arrive in Sihanoukville today, according to the Chinese embassy. The Kingdom is currently facing a shortage of raw materials from China due to COVID-19, The Khmer Times reported.

Wu Guoquan, counsellor for economic and commercial affairs at the embassy, said in a statement yesterday the shipment of materials from China will help alleviate production setbacks in the Kingdom.

“The 60 containers of raw materials will arrive at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port on Monday 9th [today],” Mr Wu said. “These materials are buttons, zips and textiles for garment factories.”

“Cambodia and China share moments of happiness and sorrow, which is why China is finding quick ways to supply raw materials to the Kingdom because of the shortage,” he added.

Mr Wu said China hopes the Kingdom’s garment sector will be able to maintain production.

“We believe China will continuously supply raw materials to Cambodia soon,” he said. “Doing so is a commitment supported by the government of China and the private sector.”

China has temporarily locked down major cities and production hubs due to COVID-19 fears, causing a shortage of raw materials.

The Garment Manufacturer’s Association of Cambodia last month said more than 60 percent of raw materials used in factories in the Kingdom are imported from China.

Government officials have estimated up to 30,000 garment factory workers could lose their jobs this month if the situation does not improve.

Prime Minister Hun Sen last month urged Chinese Ambassador Wang Wentian to help prevent job losses.

“[Getting the materials] is better than nothing, but we do not know how much it will help, GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo said yesterday. “A lot of factories need raw materials.”

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, yesterday lauded news of the arrival of raw materials.

“Good news for workers and everyone because many factories are short of raw materials,” Mr Thorn said. “The shipment will help workers stay employed.”

Ek Tha, spokesman for the Office of the Council of Ministers, said yesterday China is helping the garment sector retain its employees.

“Such a response from our ironclad friend China reaffirms strong ties that interest the peoples of both nations,” Mr Tha said.

Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour last month said approximately 90,000 workers from more than 200 factories in the Kingdom will be suspended if the supply does not arrive this month.

“The government will give about $100 to each garment worker per month,” Mr Sour said. “The factories that want to suspend their operations need to pay the workers a certain amount as well. They cannot suspend the workers or cease operation right away without paying [their employees].”

Kaing Monika, deputy secretary-general of GMAC, last month said factories could suspend operations until April.

“Some factories, though not 100 percent, in China have restarted production,” Mr Monika said. “The government has sought special treatment from our Chinese friends to put Cambodia as top priority in terms of supplies.”

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