The Cambodia Independent Teachers’ Association issued a statement Monday calling on the Education Ministry to stop headmasters from using their positions to help recruit students for the ruling CPP.
CITA President Rong Chhun urged Education Minister Kol Pheng to prevent political parties from using school compounds to influence students.
Rong Chhun claimed the practice is going on in many schools around the country, and called on the National Election Committee to investigate. One high-school headmaster in Kandal province said he has convinced 300 of his students to register with the CPP in exchange for books, pens and other educational resources.
“They volunteered to join the CPP. After their participation [in the party], they received gifts from the CPP,” said Ros Kimheang, principal of Jayavarman VII High School in Kien Svay district.
Ros Kimheang said he only asked the students to join the CPP outside regular school hours, and that registering is not the same as voting for the party. “We are not sure that they vote for the CPP,” he said. Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said that, if there were
enough evidence that headmasters had used school hours to conduct a campaign for the CPP, they would be fired.
“They will be fired if they used the study time [to recruit],” he said, but added that if students are over 18 they can make their own decision about whether to register.
Education Minister Kol Pheng, a Funcinpec official, could not be reached for comment.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said that it was not the responsibility of the NEC to investigate CITA’s allegation because the official campaign period for April’s commune elections has not yet begun.
Mar Sophal, chief monitor of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said his organization has also found teachers and headmasters in some schools asking pupils to join the CPP. Some students feel they have to register with political parties or it will affect their academic results, he said.
(Additional reporting by James Welsh.)