Kompong Thom provincial Governor Nou Phoeung said Thursday that he would prevent the Cambodia Independent Teachers Association from meeting Sunday because it lacked permission from the government to congregate.
Nou Phoeung said that teachers needed to request permission to meet in order to preserve national security.
“If those teachers convince other teachers to strike for higher salaries, this will lead to social disruption, and we will not grant them permission,” he said. “Our country has a law. Those teachers have to respect the law because we want our country to become the rule of law.”
Nou Phoeung said he would ask police to block teachers from gathering if they continued to hold unauthorized meetings.
Sak Setha, general director of the Interior Ministry’s General Staff Department, said if the teachers association already had received permission to meet from the Interior Ministry, it needed only to inform local authorities of the meeting.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, called Nou Phoeung’s decision unconstitutional.
He defended the teachers, saying that the association had informed the appropriate authorities about its meeting but was still instructed to get authorization from provincial authorities.
“The local authority doesn’t adhere to the Constitution. Since the election is coming, all the meetings are always banned,” Rong Chhun said.
Cambodians are guaranteed the freedom of assembly by the Constitution’s Article 41. But the article also states that “no one shall exercise this right…to violate public law and order and national security.”
Nou Phoeung said authorities would consider whether future proposed meetings would threaten national security and would grant permission accordingly.
Rong Chhun said the teachers would continue to meet even if authorities continued to ban their gatherings.
In December, teachers attempted to gather for a union meeting in Kompong Thom’s Stung Sen district, but were stopped by police officials as they attempted to enter a junior high school where the meeting had been scheduled to be held.