Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng met with at least 10 professors representing striking teachers at his Phnom Penh home late Thursday to ask them to return to work.
Sar Kheng said by telephone Friday that the teachers understood the cash-strapped government’s request, and agreed to go back to work after several weeks on strike.
“We are trying to explain to them the difficulty the government faces, and they understand this,” Sar Kheng said. “At this time, the government is unable to afford [giving the teachers] a raise. But it could give a raise in the future.”
Sar Kheng was to have dinner with the teachers’ representatives again on Friday night at his home.
Teachers, who earn between $15 and $20 a month, had de-manded a raise to at least $300 a month, a more than 1,500 percent increase.
The teachers’ strike was the first in at least 20 years.
The government made several overtures that teachers rejected, including a $5 per month bonus and a pledge to reduce government and parliamentary salaries to reduce the disparity between teachers and top officials.
High school and junior high school teachers in Phnom Penh and those in various provinces, including Battambang, Kompong Cham, Kratie and Sihanoukville, returned to work, Undersecretary of State for Education Bun Sok said Friday.
But professors at the Royal University of Phnom Penh remain on strike, Bun Sok said, adding that he expects them to go back to work soon.
He noted that attendance in classes has been spotty.
“It is nearly the time of the Chinese New Year,” Bun Sok said.
Some students also stayed out of classes to support striking teachers.