After police stopped teachers from meeting yesterday outside the former National Assembly building in Phnom Penh to march for higher salaries, at least 150 teachers joined by SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua demonstrated outside the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association headquarters.
About ten police officers cordoned off each road approaching Wat Botum park, where protesters were due to assemble for a World Teachers’ Day march at 8 am. More than fifty municipal and military police officers stood at the meeting place to prevent the teachers from gathering.
The municipality had previously banned the teachers from marching yesterday, although it had granted them permission to demonstrate at CITA headquarters.
“It looks very bad that police officers block the roads without allowing demonstrators to enter,” CITA president Rong Chhun said. “It affects the face of Prime Minister [Hun Sen] when teachers are not allowed to mark the day while teachers around the world are allowed to.”
Nevertheless an hour later over 100 teachers demanded higher salaries and a minimum wage of 1 million riel, or about $250, per month in front of the CITA office on the road barricaded by police, Mr Chhun said, noting that currently teachers live on as little as $40 a month. “We demand higher salaries for teachers,” he said, addressing the crowd.
Although Mr Chhun claimed there were 343 teachers from 16 provinces at yesterday’s demonstration, a reporter counted approximately 150 attendees.
Written demands, including family support payments and biannual rises of 20,000 riel, or about $5, per month, were handed to Ms Sochua to pass onto the government when the protest ended at 11 am.
Ms Sochua said that teachers live in difficult conditions considering their workload, so demands for a higher salary must be heard to improve the quality of education. “I’m here to say investment in education is investment in economic and social justice,” Ms Sochua said.
Primary school teacher Then Chantha from Pursat province said he was blocked from reaching the former National Assembly building yesterday morning. “I demand an increase in salary. My current salary is not enough to pay for my daily living conditions,” Mr Chantha said.
Municipal police chief Touch Naruth said yesterday he was too busy to talk to a reporter, while deputy municipal police chief Phuong Malay, who attended the demonstration, declined to comment, as did Education Ministry spokesperson In The.