Teachers in Oddar Meanchey province, who last week accused district education officials of stealing their salaries, were on Monday threatened with expulsion for talking to the media, a teachers union said.
The Anlong Veng district education director summoned about 15 teachers and school officials to the district office to deliver the threat.
“This morning, the district and provincial education officials told us that if we speak to the media, we could be removed from the teacher list,” said Nhorn Sarun, a representative of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA) and a teacher at Anlong Veng Primary School, where 17 teachers complained of being shortchanged on overtime payments.
“They said we should talk to officials first, before the media,” she added.
The 17 teachers at Anlong Veng primary—and a further 80 teachers from across the province—were either not paid overtime for the first six months of the school year or were paid money not due to them only to have it taken back by district officials.
CITA first sent a letter of complaint to the Ministry of Education on May 12 and a day later contacted the media.
In response, provincial officials claimed a technical error caused the faulty payments and promised to rectify the situation.
Choeun Chhea, acting director of the Oddar Meanchey education department, said that the teachers were called to the meeting for an explanation, not intimidation.
“We told the education officials to call the teachers who had the problem to explain the technical error,” Mr. Chhea said.
“These teachers should take the time to talk to officials rather than talk to the media.”
However, Ros Salin, cabinet chief at the Education Ministry, said that he had not heard of the case but that teachers were within their rights to share their grievances with the media.
“We have no policy against them talking to the media,” Mr. Salin said.
Soeun Phearin, a teacher at Tadev Primary School in Anlong Veng and a CITA member, said he was still waiting for his salary to be amended.
“Until now, I have not received my full salary, yet they called us to threaten us,” he said.
“When we need to talk to the officials, we can’t find them. But when we talk to the media, they come very fast.”
(Additional reporting by Matt Blomberg)