Despite directives from the municipality and the Ministry of Interior, teachers and democracy advocates plan to hold demonstrations today to demand higher salaries for Cambodian educators and an end to the rampant corruption that cuts into already low wages.
The Cambodia Independent Teachers’ Association will go ahead with a planned march from the National Assembly to the Ministry of Education, flouting a request from the municipality that the teachers send a petition to Parliament instead of demonstrating.
“I am determined to hold the mass demonstration, although the Phnom Penh Municipality and the Ministry of Interior did not allow me to,” said the teacher’s association president, Rong Chhun. He said the association has invited 1,000 teachers from 12 provinces to demonstrate.
The teachers, Rong Chhun said, are demanding a salary raise to $100 per month.
The teachers’ request to demonstrate was refused in a letter signed by Municipal Cabinet Chief Mann Chhoeun, who suggested that the teachers send a petition to lawmakers instead. The letter claimed the march would disturb security during the removal of Buddhist relics from a stupa in front of the train station in Phnom Penh.
Mann Chhoeun reiterated Sunday that security concerns were the reason the demonstration would not be allowed. “We want security…and we are afraid some of the demonstrators will provoke insecurity,” he said.
The Ministry of Interior, in a separate letter, also said security was the main reason for denying the demonstration. “The Ministry of Interior totally agrees with the municipality’s recommendations,” the letter stated.
In response, Rong Chhun charged the government with stifling the teachers’ freedom of speech. “This is just an excuse because the locations [of the demonstration and the Buddhist ceremonies] are very far apart. They are abusing our freedom of speech and the teachers just want to show their misery,” he said.
The Democratic Front of Khmer Students and Intellectuals are holding a parallel demonstration in front of Wat Botum in Phnom Penh at 7 am today.
The student group is expecting at least 500 teachers, students and workers to gather to recognize “the Third Mass Movement Day Against Corruption.
The students support a pay raise for the teachers and believe that if government corruption were reduced, there would be money available for the raises, said Democratic Front President Mau Moueng Yat.