Fifteen school students remained in the hospital yesterday after more than 100 students were admitted on Monday complaining of headaches and dizziness after being forced to stand in the sun as punishment by a school principal in Kompong Cham province’s Chamkar Loeu district.
The students were admitted en masse on Monday after standing in the sun for an hour because their principal, Heng Pharith, was punishing them for not raising the flag simultaneously with the national anthem, said Ly Phary, a ninth-grade student, adding that 17 students collapsed during the forced stand.
“We stood in the sun for an hour. The principal said that if no one raises the flag, we would continue standing,” Ly said.
Sou Borin, Chamkar Loeu District Hospital director, said that 136 students were admitted to the hospital on Monday. “Only 15 students remain, aged 12 to 21 years old. They still find it difficult to breathe, they feel dizzy, and their health is very poor,” Dr Borin said.
Doeung Sithol, father of 11th-grade student Ol Changhou, said the principal should not have forced his daughter to stand in the sun until fainting.
“The principal should not punish all the students to stand for an hour. He should have just pointed at a student to raise the flag,” Mr Sithol said.
Contacted by telephone, the principal said he had only made the students stand for 15 minutes in a bid to “educate them.”
“It wasn’t only the students who passed out; there was also one female teacher…because she has the same disease,” Mr Pharith said, blaming the fainting on the scent of the schoolyard’s several acacia trees.
Mr Pharith also said the students are returning to school today. “We will not allow them to go near the acacia trees,” he said.
Thong Kim Yan, deputy director of the provincial education department, also said the students being forced to stand in the sun was not the reason for the fainting or the hospitalization of the students.
“Mr Pharith only educated them for 20 minutes after the national anthem…. We suspect the acacia trees, but we do not have clear evidence,” he said.
The seven offending acacia trees will be cut down, he added.