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CITA blasts intimidation of teachers who talk to media

THE Cambodian Independent Teachers Association on Tuesday called on the Ministry of Education to stop reprimanding teachers for speaking to the media, accusing officials in four provinces of impinging on teachers’ freedom of speech.

CITA said in a statement that, so far this year, officials from education departments in Prey Veng, Pursat, Kratie and Kampong Chhnang provinces had all called teachers in for questioning after they were quoted in news reports.

CITA president Rong Chhun said in an interview Tuesday that the frequency of such questioning sessions was on the rise, adding that they were blatant attempts at intimidation.

“Threats like this happen only in communist countries. If our country follows democracy, there should be no reason to call [the teachers] in like this,” he said.

“It is unusual this year compared to last year, because just in the early part of 2010 there have been four cases of calling in teachers who have complained to the media about supplies and salaries,” he added.

Kim Darany, the head of CITA in Pursat province, said she had been called in for questioning in January after giving a radio interview in which she discussed the lack of textbooks in the province.

“I think that what I said shouldn’t affect them,” she said, referring to the officials. “I just said that students have difficulty studying because of the lack of textbooks.”

Suong Sophy, chief of the education department in Pursat, said the purpose of the meeting was not to threaten or intimidate, but rather to discuss the issues Kim Darany had raised.

Chin Rithy, the Prey Veng CITA chief, said he too had been called in by education department officials in January after giving an interview about salaries. In November, Prey Veng provincial court found him guilty of defamation after he accused an administrator of selling land belonging to a secondary school, a verdict he has appealed.

The Prey Veng education department could not be reached Tuesday.

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