More than 50 Pursat provincial police officers used physical force and road blocks to prevent approximately 70 teachers from participating in a teacher’s union district election on Sunday, union officials said.
Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association president Rong Chhun said police stood in a line blocking a road during a six-hour stand-off, preventing the union leader and supporting members from approaching a teacher’s private home, where elections for Bakan district branch director were slated to take place.
“The police pushed my chest backwards and dragged my sleeve away from the house,” Rong Chhun said, adding that union officials would try to organize another election in another district.
District Governor Sok Lymuth told police to block the road because he had not given permission for the gathering, district Police Chief Yeth Yearn said.
“Police asked them to go back, but [Rong Chhun] walked straight into police so we had a confrontation,” he said.
Sok Lymuth declined to comment on the confrontation Sunday.
Officials from the American Center for International Labor Solidarity accompanied teachers as they waited behind the roadblock from 7 am to 1 pm, but police did not remove the tape and chairs that obstructed the road, the NGO’s senior program officer Kong Pharith said.
This is the third time police have cracked down on teachers’ union gatherings in Pursat, he said.
(Additional reporting by Jennifer Collins)