In Phnom Penh, Police Block Protesting Teachers

After police yesterday stopped teachers from marching through Phnom Penh’s streets in a push for higher salaries, at least 150 union representatives and teachers dem­on­strated outside the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association headquarters.

Police officers cordoned off each street approaching Wat Botum park, near the old National As­sembly building, where protesters were due to assemble for a World Teachers’ Day march at 8 am.

More than 50 municipal and military police officers stood at the meeting place to prevent the teachers from gathering.

City Hall had only granted teachers permission to demonstrate at CITA headquarters.

“It looks very bad that police officers block the roads without allowing demonstrators to enter,” CITA president Rong Chhun said. “It affects the face of Prime Minister [Hun Sen] when teachers are not allowed to mark the day while teachers around the world are allowed to.”

Nevertheless, an hour later more than 100 teachers demanded higher salaries and a minimum wage of 1 million riel, or about $250, per month, as they gathered in front of the CITA office in Chamkar Mon district’s Boeng Keng Kang III commune. Although Mr Chhun claimed there were 343 teachers at yesterday’s demonstration, a reporter counted approximately 150 attendees.

Written demands, including extra payments of 20,000 riel—or about $5—per month for teachers who have worked for at least two years, as well as family support payments, were handed to SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua, who attended the demonstration and agreed to pass the documents on to the government.

Ms Sochua said the teachers’ de­mands must be heard to improve the quality of education. “I’m here to say investment in education is investment in economic and social justice,” Ms Sochua said.

Lieutenant General Khieu Sop­heak, Interior Ministry spokes­man, said teachers were not ob­structed from protesting, but had already been told that the demonstration was only allowed to take place at CITA headquarters.

“They are stubborn,” he said.

Tun Sa Im, undersecretary of state at the Education Ministry, said

she did not know about the protest, but added that the government tried to

increase teachers’ salaries by 20 percent every year.

 

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