Banners castigating opposition leader Sam Rainsy continued popping up at Phnom Penh schools Monday, but few were willing to take credit for the campaign and several teachers and students said they were being used to artificially support the anti-opposition protests.
Cambodia Independent Teachers Association President Rong Chhun alleged in a letter to Education Minister Kol Pheng that teachers were forced to sign or thumbprint documents stating that they supported the protests.
“School directors suppressed and forced teachers by asking them to sign or thumbprint to participate in demonstrations against the return of Sam Rainsy,” Rong Chhun wrote in a letter dated Monday.
“The school directors threatened the teachers: ‘If any teacher does not join the demonstration, they will not be allowed to teach,’” he added.
Two teachers interviewed on Monday claimed that school officials had asked them to sign the documents.
“I did not sign it because I am ashamed that we do such non-educational things in front of our children,” one high school teacher said on condition of anonymity.
Officials at the Education Ministry could not be reached Monday.
National University of Management Vice Rector Pich Phirum said his school allowed the anti-Sam Rainsy signs because it was the will of the students.
“Our school is independent, but this is born of the will of the students,” Pich Phirum said.
However, a 23-year-old National University of Management student said she didn’t believe students had conceived of the banners.
“It’s not appropriate,” she said. “Schools are supposed to be neutral.”
A teacher at the National Institute of Education said that student representatives were not an accurate reflection of the student body, because candidates for election to such positions were hand-picked by school administrators to further their own political agendas.
He added that his school’s representative could not have gotten consensus from the student body, because most students have been on vacation since August.
Royal University of Law and Economic Science student Man Kheang, 21, said he felt betrayed because he was taught to stay out of politics and focus on his studies, but now his school is “involving students in politics against their will.”