Low-Level School Officials Fired in Food Scam

Kompong Cham province’s Education Department will fire two primary school officials ac­cused of stealing donated rice from the UN’s World Food Pro­gram and siphoning unspecified funds from the Education Min­istry intended for their school, an official said.

The department has decided to sack Principal Chhuon Chhum and Deputy Principal Meas Ry from Phnom Denh primary school by the middle of this month, department Director Huot Non said Wednesday, after a group of 30 teachers walked off the job the day before, demanding the principal’s removal.

“It will take some time to carry out the replacement,” Huot Non said.

Education officials charged that Chhuon Chhum and Meas Ry were involved in a scam now being investigated by the government and the WFP, in which officials allegedly stole large quantities of rice from the WFP and sold it for profit.

They are also accused of mismanaging funds from the ministry’s Priority Action Program to upgrade schools.

Chhuon Chum on Wednesday denied both accusations. “The teachers are angry with me after I scolded them not to sell cakes to the students during classes,” he said by telephone.

“Those teachers want to be the principal themselves. That is why they want to fire me,” he said, noting that he has worked as a principal at the school for more than 20 years.

Meas Ry could not be reached by telephone.

The teachers’ representative Tea Bopha, however, said Phnom Denh primary school has never benefited from the ministry’s PAP funds.

“We have never seen the principal use the money he collected to renovate school buildings,” she said.

She added that the teachers have no preference about who should replace Chhuon Chum.

Ramaraj Saravanamuttu, WFP’s deputy country director,  said Wednesday he did not know of the allegations against the two school officials.

“I’m not specifically aware of that” case, he said.

However, he added that “since the program is run with the government, if there is mismanagement, we would know about it.”

(Additional reporting by Wency Leung)


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