The Phnom Penh municipal education department has encouraged teachers and education officials to donate money to the municipal CPP office to defray the costs of today’s January 7 celebration, department Director Oum Hoeurng said Monday.
An estimated 60,000 people—including thousands of students and teachers—are scheduled to join today’s rally at Olympic stadium to celebrate the Jan 7, 1979 ouster of the Khmer Rouge from Phnom Penh.
Oum Hoeurng said that the money will be collected by schoolmasters at schools throughout the city, but he added that he did not know the total cost of the celebration or how much money had been collected so far.
“We just appealed for voluntary contributions,” he said. “Anybody who does not want to contribute, it is their will,” he added.
“Actually the schoolmaster sends money directly to the CPP party. This is why I am not aware of the total amount of collected money.”
Neither Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema, who is also chief of the municipal CPP office, nor Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong, who is deputy chief of the CPP office, could be reached for comment Tuesday.
Preap Phoeung, a schoolmaster at Phnom Penh’s Wat Phnom high school, said Monday his staff has donated about $100 since he received an announcement from the education department in November about the collection for January 7.
“It is the first time that we appealed for voluntary contribution from school teachers,” Preap Phoeung said, noting that 95 percent of the school’s 70 teachers and education officials had donated. He also said all contributions were voluntary.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, said asking for donations from teachers was wrong, whether it was voluntary or not.
“Jan 7 is not a national holiday, so it is really nasty to pressure teachers to contribute their small salaries to pay for this rally,” he said. “Although they do not use weapons to threaten teachers to contribute, just asking them to do so is also intimidation because nobody dares to say no,” he added.
“Whenever the leader of a department appeals for voluntary contribution it harms freedom and is a kind of pressure on teachers’ emotions that suggests a kind of indirect intimidation.”
Teachers had mixed reactions when interviewed Tuesday. A teacher at Phnom Penh’s Yamadico primary school named Mealea, who declined to disclose her family name, said she donated 2,000 riel for today’s CPP-sponsored event.
“When the schoolmaster called for contribution, it never occurred to me to say no,” she said.
But another teacher at Wat Phnom high school, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday that he was unhappy about the situation: “I just want to keep good communication with schoolmasters, which is why I involuntarily