State and private schools and universities can post pro-Sam Rainsy banners if they wish, Ministry of Education officials said Thursday, responding to a request from the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association that anti-Sam Rainsy banners be removed from school property.
Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association President Rong Chhun accused directors and rectors at state and private schools of abusing their civil servant status by placing the anti-opposition placards.
Article 37 of the civil servant statute states that civil servants are not allowed to use their positions to serve the interests of political parties.
“We urged the Ministry of Education to pull down those banners because it is an abuse of civil servant status,” Rong Chhun said.
But Ministry of Education Secretary of State Pok Than said the ministry cannot stop students and staff from posting banners.
“We didn’t give them permission, but they already posted them and it is their right to,” Pok Than said.
Pok Than accused Rong Chun of holding regular demonstrations and said others had the right to post banners.
Ministry of Education Secretary of State Bun Sok said teachers and school directors have a right to express themselves politicaly.
Seng Phally, president of the Cambodian Higher Education Association, also insisted that the anti-Sam Rainsy banners did not represent a conflict of interests or an unhealthy mix of official positions and personal politics.
“The banners do not affect politics because they were written by intellectuals,” he reasoned.
Chan Soveth, spokesman for local rights group Adhoc, said schools and universities should take the banners down, adding that it was improper for civil servants to take such explicit sides in political disputes.
“Civil servants should be independent,” he said. “I strongly urge that the banners be pulled down because it affects [Cambodia’s] honor.”