Teachers’ Union Claims Intimidation by Interior Ministry

A prominent teachers’ union known for its frequent criticisms of government policies is asking for clarification from the Interior Ministry after receiving a complaint the union says questions the legitimacy of its newly elected president.

The complaint, the union said, was unclear, inaccurate and amounted to intimidation—with its president drawing a parallel to recent harassment of the opposition CNRP.

“It is just a pretext to intimidate the teachers in Cambodia,” said Ouk Chhayavy, who was officially elected president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association (CITA) at a congressional meeting on December 31 after years of heading the organization as its acting president.

“They are using this pretext to make our teachers feel scared and say that our Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association has no rules,” Ms. Chhayavy said earlier this week.

Ms. Chhayavy said she would be sending a letter to the Interior Ministry, which had accused the union of failing to comply with its own bylaws during its December meeting.

Last month, the CNRP was likewise told by the ministry that its election of new leadership—following the abrupt resignation of former President Sam Rainsy in February—violated party bylaws. The CNRP submitted amendments to its internal rules last week and re-elected the same leadership at a meeting on Sunday.

According to the Interior Ministry’s letter, CITA failed to comply with an article in its bylaws requiring that it treat its members equally and respect national unity, because some participants at the December meeting were not part of the union’s leadership structure.

The letter also said that recent amendments to CITA’s bylaws violated the country’s NGO law.

When contacted on Monday, Chhim Kan, director of the ministry’s department for association and political parties, would not explain the complaint further, saying the letter was clear.

“She [Ouk Chhayavy] said by herself [the bylaws are compliant], but in fact it is wrong,” Mr. Kan said. “Why doesn’t she come to meet the experts?”

CITA has long been a vocal critic of policies and practices in the education sector, including a severe shortage of textbooks and school headmasters allegedly recruiting students into the ruling party. Last year, it was accused by the Education Ministry of being “a puppet of the CNRP” for calling for protests in defense of then-CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha, who was under threat of arrest.

The association’s former president, Rong Chhun, now works for the National Election Committee as one of four CNRP appointees to the nine-member body.

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