Graduates Burn Tires, Demand Course Entry

More than 100 university graduates claiming betrayal by education officials burned tires Wed­nesday at the gates of the Edu­cation Ministry to demand automatic entrance into a graduate-level teacher training program at the Institute of Pedagogy.

Piles of smoking and flaming tires blocked the entrance to the ministry and slowly turned into mounds of red-hot rubber, frustrating officials’ attempts to drive in and out of the compound. Stu­dents also hung signs on the ministry’s fence that read: “Tol Lah is the puppet for who?” and “Is Tol Lah a Khmer citizen or not?” in reference to the Education Minister.

The students complained that they had been promised unconditional entry to the course that would qualify them as high school teachers but that they were now being required to take an entrance exam.

Twelve representatives of the students met with Tol Lah, also deputy prime minister, and Sec­retary of State for Education Pok Than for 90 minutes on Wed­nesday afternoon but said they did not get any concessions.

“We were not able to negotiate with Tol Lah,” said Tang Theara,  a representative at the meeting.

The graduates first marched on the ministry Jan 13 after learning an exam would be used to limit entrance to a training program to 200 students. After a similar tire-burning protest, Edu­cation officials agreed to admit all applicants.

Pok Than said Wednesday that the ministry had not violated the agreement but has made completion of the exam—regardless of score—a mandatory step of the application process.

Students promised that be­cause the exam requirement was not eliminated they would be in front of the Education Ministry again today burning more tires.

“We will continue to burn the tires if they don’t keep their promise,” protest leader Leng Chan Virak said.

Said one student: “Pok Than said it is unreasonable not to have a test because teachers must be competent but we still want automatic entrance to the Institute of Pedagogy institute.”

(Additional reporting by The Associated Press)


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