An opposition-aligned teachers’ union under fire for supposedly breaching its internal rules while electing its new president has hit back at the Interior Ministry, daring it to dissolve the union and thereby tarnish the country’s reputation.
Ouk Chhayavy, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association (CITA), said on Monday that she had written a response to the ministry over a warning last month that her election to the union’s presidency in December—after serving as acting president for years—had breached the association’s bylaws.
Her letter asserts that CITA’s congressional meeting on December 31 had complied with the association’s bylaws and the country’s NGO Law.
The ministry has claimed that non-members attended the meeting and that CITA’s amended bylaws were against the law.
Ms. Chhayavy said last week that the ministry’s complaints were unclear, inaccurate and amounted to intimidation of an organization that frequently criticizes the government. She compared the complaints to the repeated harassment of the opposition CNRP over the election of its new leaders since the resignation of former President Sam Rainsy in February.
Asked on Monday whether she was worried about CITA being dissolved, Ms. Chhayavy said in a message: “I never worried about closing the association. If [the ministry] wants the country to lose face, let [them] do it. It is the image of the country and it is not my image.”
Chhim Kan, director of the Interior Ministry’s department for associations and political parties, said he had yet to see CITA’s letter and could not comment.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak also said he had not seen the letter. Asked if the ministry would take action against CITA if it failed to follow orders, he replied: “The ministry said she was wrong and she said [she] was right, so there needs to be a referee to make the decision.”
The NGO Law says organizations can appeal decisions made by the Interior Ministry in the courts.