No Action on School Certificates for Refugees

More than two months after top officials promised to “soon” recognize educational certificates from refugee camps, little has happened, and education officials wanting to help those educated in the border camps who now want to pursue higher education say they have been asked to wait.

Pok Than, secretary of state for the Ministry of Education, said he has had no luck convincing the Council of Ministers to move quickly on the issue.

“Now many [former refugees] want to pursue their studies,” he said, but the council has said, “Let’s wait.”

At issue are certificates earned by people living in refugee camps during the 1980s and early 1990s, following the virtual destruction of Cambodia’s education system by the Khmer Rouge.

Unlike young people living inside Cambodia, students in some of the camps had teachers and textbooks, and many emer­ged far better educated than their countrymen.

The 1991 Paris Peace Accords decreed that Cambodia must recognize educational certificates awarded to citizens in exile, in­cluding camp residents.

The certificates were honored until 1997, when education officials discovered that 30 certificates purporting to be issued in the camps were forgeries. The ministry stopped issuing certificates of equivalence for the camp credentials and has not issued them since.

Since then, students who were educated in the camps and who want to pursue advanced degrees have been stuck. When they apply to Cambodian schools and universities, they say they are told they don’t qualify. Some say they are deliberately being excluded by a government policy that prefers to save scarce university slots and scholarships for politically connected applicants.

In 1999 and earlier this year, the Education Ministry wrote to the Council of Ministers, asking them to resume recognizing the camp certificates.

In September, council spokes­man Khieu Thavika promised the cabinet would meet with education officials “soon” to discuss the issue, saying it was complicated and would take some time to resolve. Contacted twice last week, Khieu Thavika said he was too busy to talk about the issue.




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