The Cambodia Independent Teachers Association yesterday called on the Ministry of Education to lift a recently introduced ban that prevents schoolteachers from assembling on school grounds to discuss social conditions or political matters.
In a statement released yesterday, CITA President Rong Chhun said the ministry’s rule denied the teachers’ their constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.
“This directive consists of an element of restriction on the freedom of association and the freedoms of teachers [expression], it contradicts the law,” Mr Chhun said.
“In fact, the [teachers’] association is a partner of the education ministry in strengthening good governance and improvement of the education system with better quality in the educational institutions.”
On Jan 13, Education Minister Im Sethy issued a directive ordering all teachers, education officers and school leaders to not hold any gathering to discuss social conditions or political matters, saying that such gatherings would violate Cambodia’s Law on Education.
“Some associations have carried out their irregular activities by disseminating, electing their representatives and persuading education officers to join their associations,” Mr Sethy said in the directive, which did not name any specific organization or association.
The directive prohibits political activities, including electioneering, on school grounds “without permission from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.”
Such activities were now banned, the minister said, because they would interfere with teaching activities and functioning of schools.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Mr Chhun called the minister’s directive “extreme and selfish” because the minister had never stopped the teachers who are affiliated with the CPP from disseminating the CPP platform inside schools ahead of the last national election campaign.
Mr Chhun said the ban was merely issued to “intimidate and threaten” schoolteachers to prevent them from joining CITA, which he said was considered as having growing support among educationalists.
“In the school,” he said, “politics is already there, as some teachers take time from public working hours to attend the party congress. Particularly to attend the congress of the ruling party,” he added.
Mr Sethy could not be reached for comment Wednesday.