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Striking teachers to be taught a lesson

As teachers in several provinces continue to strike over low wages, the Ministry of Education declined to say yesterday whether it would follow through on threats to enact harsh punishment on those who have walked.

In a statement issued on Friday and obtained yesterday, Pin Chamnarn, acting Minister of Education, warned any teacher or education official who violates the code of ethics and education law by striking would “be fined and ordered to pay from one to five millions riel”.

In the announcement, which was issued shortly after Cambodian Independent Teachers Association head Rong Chhun called for the wage strike, Chamnarn writes that teachers who “do things that disturb the education quality, completing tasks” will face serious punishment.

In addition to fines, they could face demotion, forced early retirement, year-long suspension or even firings.

Asked yesterday whether the ministry would enact the punishments, Chamnarn declined to comment, referring questions to the cabinet, which could not be reached.

Demonstrations set for Sunday by teachers calling for a minimum wage of one million riel ($250) a month were called off in light of last week’s violence and government ban on protests, but Chhun said a number of teachers had quietly gone ahead with the strikes.

Instead of gathering, he said, teachers – primarily in the capital, Kandal and Siem Reap – went to school but refused to teach.

In response, he said, “many police were sent to some schools, and some teachers were warned against striking”.

He said he did not have figures on how many were striking, but said that strikers included teachers not aligned with his association.

The current average minimum wage for teachers is $80 a month, a figure set to be increased to $100 this month, according to the Teachers Association of Cambodia. That salary puts them on par with garment workers, who have been striking for a doubling of their current $80 a month minimum wage.

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