Education officials in Pursat province on Monday denied distributing pro-CPP shirts to students ahead of a ruling party celebration this pastweekend, claiming the children had obtained the shirts themselves.
But a student and the local head of a teachers association said the pink shirts—“I Love the Cambodian People’s Party” emblazoned on the back of each—were passed out at Pursat High School on Saturday, in breach of a law prohibiting political activism at academic institutions.
A 16-year-old student at the public school in Pursat City, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, said the shirts were given to student leaders from each senior class in anticipation of a celebration on Sunday marking the CPP’s 65th anniversary, which falls today.
“The school director called class prefects to take the shirts and give them to students in grade 10 and grade 11,” she said.
The director of Pursat High School, Aing Sakmony, declined to comment. Ly Sokhunthy, director of the provincial education department, said the shirts’ distribution was not officially sanctioned.
“There was no contribution of shirts [from the government]. The students took them from somewhere else,” he said, refusing to comment further.
In August, the Education Ministry issued a directive reinforcing a law banning political activism at academic institutions. Neither Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron nor ministry spokesman Ros Salin could be reached on Monday.
Kim Darany, provincial director of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said educators would not have distributed the shirts without authorization.
“If they had no order from top leaders, the teachers would not have dared to do it,” she said. “His Excellency Hang Chuon Naron has created this law, but he has violated it himself.”
Mak Ra, deputy head of the ruling party in Pursat, said he had no knowledge of school officials handing out pro-CPP shirts, but that CPP-branded clothing had been distributed to supporters on Sunday.