At a time when all three political parties are on the lookout for communal election candidates, Prime Minister Hun Sen tried recruiting the best and the brightest on Thursday—moments after they received their diplomas.
Speaking to more than 200 graduates at the Faculty of Pedagogy, the Prime Minister strongly encouraged the newly trained teaching candidates to enter politics.
“Being trained like you are would be very helpful,” the Prime Minister said.
“It would create a better brain for the communal councils and help us obtain sustainable development,” he said.
He quoted the words of former Kampot Governor Nhean Thean, who more than 30 years ago told students: “If you want to work as commune chief, I would let you do it right away.”
Nhean Thean’s idea was ridiculed at the time, because being a teacher paid more and was more prestigious than being a commune chief. Today’s teachers are paid so poorly they often can’t cover their cost of living.
Hun Sen said he would encourage the Ministry of Education to allow any would-be teachers who became commune chiefs to collect a full teaching salary, without doing any actual teaching while they served as commune chiefs.
His offer sounded good to Huy Chanta, 23, who received her certificate Thursday.
“I want to try on this work and use all my knowledge to develop the community,” she said. “The job of commune chief is very important for society. I want to see educated people hold these posts.”
Chhay Yiheang, education advisor to the government and a philosophy instructor at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, also lauded Hun Sen’s suggestion.
“It could help foster Cambodia’s fledgling democracy and build the rule of law,” he said. “If we have people with high knowledge, the development of community and democracy will go much more smoothly.”
Hun Sen also vowed to train more students to be teachers, even if they didn’t want to also become politicians.
“I don’t think the IMF or the World bank would oppose any increase in the number of teachers,” he said. “The military, I demand that they demobilize. But we can’t cut teachers.”