Zaman Says Closure Threats Are Just ‘Rumors and Myths’

There is “no possibility” Zaman schools will be shut down, a school principal said on Thursday, despite a Ministry of Education acknowledgment that top government officials were reviewing just such a request from the Turkish government.

Turkish Ambassador Ilhan Kemal Tug has repeatedly urged the Cambodian government to close Zaman University and Zaman International’s kindergarten, primary and secondary school campuses, saying the parent company is affiliated with a “terrorist organization” run by a controversial cleric blamed for a bloody July 15 coup attempt.   

Students walk out of a building at Zaman University in Phnom Penh's Tuol Kok district last month. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Students walk out of a building at Zaman University in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district last month. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

On Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced it was considering Mr. Tug’s request to resolve what spokesman Chum Sounry described as an “important problem.”

At a news conference on Thursday, however, Isa Antepli, principal at Zaman’s primary school campus, dismissed the threats of closure as “rumors and myths.”

“We will open our school on September 5,” Mr. Antepli said. “We don’t have any problems and we don’t have any worries about closing the school.”

A total of 460 students had registered so far for the upcoming term, with some grades fully booked, he said. “I would like to express my deepest thanks to our parents, who support and register their kids, despite all these rumors and myths,” he said.

Any decision by the government to shut the schools, which are accredited in Cambodia rather than Turkey, would hit close to home, he added.

“We have students who are children and grandchildren of ministers, excellencies, under-secretaries,” he said, adding there was “no possibility or way” the schools would close.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry could not be reached for comment.

Education Ministry spokesman Ros Salin characterized the dispute as a political issue that was under consideration by “the heads of government of the two countries” and said the ministry was “not involved for now.”

“If the school does not respect the law of education, we can punish them,” Mr. Salin said on Thursday. But in this case it is a “a political matter.”

(Additional reporting by Sek Odom)

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