In a closed-door meeting at Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich theater, senior CPP leaders called on some 4,500 teachers to support the ruling party in July’s national elections and gave 50,000 riel (about $12.50) to each teacher who attended.
CPP secretary-general Say Chhum told the audience that it was imperative that the CPP win this year’s election so that it could continue to improve the quality of education in the country, and reward the nearly 90,000 teachers employed in the country’s public school system.
“If you like, and you trust, and you strongly believe in Hun Sen, please vote for the Cambodian People’s Party. A vote for the Cambodian People’s Party is a vote for yourself,” Mr. Chhum told the thousands of teachers in attendance.
Mr. Chhum also said the political opposition was promising higher wages for teachers and other civil servants, but this was an old strategy rolled out at each election.
“They [the opposition] just promise and lie to voters. What the opposition party says is not true,” Mr. Chhum said, adding that it was normal CPP practice to give gifts to members and supporters, which was why he was giving each teacher at the meeting 50,000 riel.
The low pay of teachers and the small slice of the national budget directed toward education are often cited as key reasons why Cambodia’s education system continues to be ranked among the worst in the region, and the opposition has long promised reform and higher teacher salaries should they win an election.
The salary for public school teachers in Phnom Penh is between $65 and $110 a month, depending on grade-level and seniority.
Chea Cheat, the director of municipal department of education, who distributed the cash on behalf of Mr. Chhum after the meeting, said that about 4,500 teachers in Phnom Penh are CPP members.
However, Rong Chhun, the president of the Cambodian Independent Teacher’s Association, said Sunday that the reported allegiance of teachers to the CPP was only due to the fact that educators are often presented with CPP-membership paperwork upon being hired in schools, and given little option but to sign up if they want a position.
“Teachers sign only because they are scared, not because they support the party,” he said.
Yim Sovann, spokesman for the Cambodia National Rescue Party, said the cash gifts to teachers were unlikely to change their decision at the ballot box.
“Many of them participated [in the event] because of money. But they don’t care about CPP rallies, they care about their salaries, because they cannot afford to live with very small salaries like they have now,” he said.