Authorities Begin to Clamp Down on Striking Teachers

Authorities in Phnom Penh and at least three provinces have begun to clamp down on teachers conducting piecemeal strikes for higher wages, with one union representative being asked to sign an anti-strike agreement and another called in for police questioning.

In Kandal province’s Kien Svay district, Ouk Chhayavy, a teacher at Jayavarman 7 High School and a Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA) activist, said Wednesday that she had been summonsed to the district office after demonstrating for a $250 minimum wage.

“The school director and the district education office told me to thumbprint a statement to promise I would stop protesting,” she said.

“I will not give my thumbprint. They can summon me to go anywhere they want, but I will never stop protesting until we get $250,” she added.

About 40 of the 100 teachers employed at her school went to work but refused to teach classes Wednesday and released a photograph to the press of themselves standing inside the school holding up placards calling for a higher wage.

In Kompong Chhnang province, Chuon Cham, provincial director for CITA and a teacher at Preah Bat Suramarit High School, said that he had been asked to go to the provincial police office Wednesday morning.

“I went with four of my colleagues and they asked me if I planned to take a demonstration to Phnom Penh,” Mr. Cham said, adding that he explained to police that he had no intention of doing so.

“We saw the police and soldiers destroy [Freedom] Park, so I cannot ask my teachers to follow [CITA president] Mr. Rong Chhun until we are sure that all the bigger provinces follow.”

At Phnom Penh’s Tuol Tom Poung High School, where about 150 of 200 teachers on Monday refused to teach, classes reportedly ran as usual Wednesday after police turned up at the school Monday afternoon.

“About 60 [military] police and civilians circled the school and 10 of them came into the compound and took names of teachers who were involved with the strike,” said one teacher, who asked not to be named for fear of losing his job.

“They warned us not to strike or we would face arrest. We are very scared. We will not strike again,” he said.

Phnom Penh military police commander Rath Srieng denied that his men had entered the school.

“The military police were in the area to maintain order because there was a fire nearby,” he said.

At Chea Sim Chamroeun Roth High School in Phnom Penh, librarian Keo Phirum said he was attacked by a senior member of school management Wednesday after he and seven striking teachers held up placards with phrases such as, “If we don’t have full salary, we don’t have full wisdom to teach,” and “Teachers deserve dignity.”

“[He] took my placard and tore it into pieces and then he pushed me and tried to take my camera,” Mr. Phirum said.

In Siem Reap province, CITA provincial director Hy Sambath said that 20 teachers protesting on the road heeded a warning from the education department to move back inside the school.

(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)

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