A teacher who allegedly forced an 11-year-old student to be stripped naked as punishment in May will remain employed by the Education Ministry, but has been summoned for questioning at the Svay Rieng Municipal Court, ministry and court officials said Wednesday.
Duong Sanet, 48, a second-grade teacher at Hun Sen Wat Thmey Primary School in Rumduol district’s Sangke commune, allegedly ordered a male student to take off a female student’s skirt and underwear in front of the class because she could not read a sentence out loud.
In a statement released Wednesday, the ministry said it has sufficiently reprimanded Mr. Sanet by moving him to a low-level administrative role in the district education office.
“The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport does not have the authority to intervene with other punishments, which must come from the court,” the statement said.
Authorities began investigating Mr. Sanet after the alleged victim’s grandmother, Roath Saron, 64, filed a complaint with commune police on May 26, after the girl refused to attend school because of the incident eight days earlier.
Ms. Saron initially demanded $500 in compensation to settle the ordeal. But when Mr. Sanet said he would only pay her $300, she took her complaint to human rights group Licadho, who filed a complaint on her behalf at the provincial court.
The provincial court did not issue the summons for Mr. Sanet to appear for questioning until September 22, almost four months after the complaint was filed.
Deputy prosecutor Phan Ratana said the delay was the result of bureaucratic restructuring, and that recent action was not a response to attention the case has received on social media and local news.
“We have not charged him yet because it was being investigated by prosecutor Hing Bunchea and then he moved out, but then the new prosecutor assigned me to re-investigate the matter,” he said.
Mr. Ratana said the case “involved” indecent acts against minors under the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, and that the case could not be settled outside of court.
“We are working hard on this case,” he said.
Mr. Sanet admitted Wednesday to asking other students to remove the girl’s clothes, but claimed it was meant as a joke.
“I did not remove the girl’s clothes myself,” he said. “I said ‘Hey, she does not remember the lesson, do any students dare to remove her clothes?’ And immediately a boy ran quickly to remove her skirt. I also tried to stop him but it was already done.”
Mom Lida, provincial investigator for rights group Licadho, said that other pupils had accused Mr. Sanet of doling out similar sanctions to other students.
“Based on my investigation, the students told me the teacher committed the same punishment against many students in his class,” Mr. Lida said.
Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron said Wednesday that he believed Mr. Sanet’s demotion was adequate punishment, and that he did not want to create problems by firing him outright.
“He is now working at a very, very low level. It is quite a demotion, as he is no longer a civil servant,” the minister said.
Mr. Chuon Naron also said that Mr. Sanet had received further punishment, but declined to divulge what it was.
“I don’t want to ignite problems with other teachers, so I cannot disclose all of the punishment,” he said. “We don’t want other teachers to get angry at us, but the punishment is very severe.”
(Additional reporting by Taylor O’Connell)