Teachers to Recommence Strike for Higher Wage

Teachers around the country will recommence a labor strike today, demanding a raise in salary to $250 per month, teachers and the Cambodian Independent Teachers Union (CITA) said Tuesday.

Teachers in Phnom Penh and at least five provinces on Monday began piecemeal strikes after CITA leader Rong Chhun called for a nationwide stay-away last week.  However, the strikes on Monday were mostly uncoordinated after Mr. Chhun remained unreachable for three days over the weekend. Last week, he was summoned to appear in court on January 14 on charges allegedly related to his activism.

“We will continue to strike, but we are looking into the situation. If they deploy more forces, we will tell them [teachers] to be calm and sit in the classroom but don’t teach,” Mr. Chhun said Tuesday, referring to reports that security forces had been deployed to at least two schools where strikes had taken place Monday.

Teachers, some of whom had erred on the side of caution in the wake of Mr. Chhun’s silence Monday, were more resolute Tuesday, saying that they would strike until the government met their demands.

“[Today], I will not teach, and the next day I will go to school but I won’t teach,” said Ouk Chhayavy, a CITA member who teaches at Jayavarman 7 High School in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district.

“We will strike until the government gives us a basic salary of $250.”

There are 87,000-plus teachers employed in the country’s 11,370 schools, and CITA has a membership in excess of 10,000.

Seng Thy, a teacher at Norodom Ranariddh Primary School in Kompong Speu’s Kong Pisei district, said that all 38 teachers there were unanimous in their decision to strike.

“The director has told us that it is forbidden to strike but if we all stay together, what can they do?” Mr. Thy said.

Ros Salin, Cabinet chief at the Ministry of Education, said teachers were obliged to hold classes for their students today.

“[Today] is a working day…all teachers are expected to be at school as usual,” he said.

“The ministry will explain the negative effects of the strike [to teachers] and we have no further plan after that.”

(Additional reporting by Aun Pheap)

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