The Labor Ministry is considering constructing a railway line connecting Phnom Penh and select provinces to special economic zones (SEZ) or industrial areas in response to the high number of road accidents involving commuting workers.
Speaking at the 2016 Annual Report and Direction for 2017 of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) meeting, Labor Minister Ith Samheng said he was discussing the idea with the Public Works and Transport Ministry in an effort to tackle the number of road accidents resulting from workers commuting in overcrowded vehicles which are often driven recklessly.
“Moreover, we are also discussing with some partners to get them to invest in the safety of workers’ transportation rather than using the current transportation system which involves trucks,” Mr. Samheng said.
“However this project, which will be relevant to various sectors, will need us to discuss it a lot and thoroughly think about,” he added.
In the meantime, Mr. Samheng said the NSSF will continue to educate drivers who transport truckloads of workers daily and will cooperate with the relevant ministries to promote the traffic law in the hope of reducing accident rates.
However Ath Thorn, the president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU),said that building a railway specifically for workers was skirting the issue of poor enforcement of the traffic law.
He suggested instead the Labor Ministry as well as the Public Works and Transport Ministry more strictly implement the laws as well as improve the maintenance of roads to reduce the number of traffic accidents.
“The ministry should prepare buses or safer vehicles for the workers. Constructing a railway line takes a long time and is difficult to do,” Mr. Thorn said.
“I think that it’ll be effective enough if the ministry prepares safe vehicles for the workers to commute without having to build railway lines,” he added.
Mr. Thorn also suggested that employers could allocate homes for their employees near the special economic zones which would negate the dangerous daily journey altogether.
According to November 2015 data by the Council for Development of Cambodia, there are 34 SEZs nationwide, many of which cater to the garment industry.
In 2016, there were 5,609 traffic accidents involving garment workers which resulted in 103 deaths as well as 7,446 injuries, 970 of which were serious.
While the total number of accidents was reduced compared with 2015, the number of victims increased by one percent.