The Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association (CITA) at a press conference yesterday urged the Ministry of Education to reinstate 13 former opposition party members who claim they were unjustly fired from their jobs with the ministry for politically motivated reasons.
The press conference followed complaints filed to CITA from 11 of the 13 ministry employees, who were fired on January 30 for “being absent without permission” despite having submitted letters to their respective provincial Education Departments to resume their temporarily suspended duties, in accordance with procedure.
Their termination letters were all signed by Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron.
They claim the Education Ministry did not contact them for a verbal warning nor did it provide them with a warning written letter before being terminated, as required.
Yesterday’s press conference was convened by former CITA head Rong Chhun, himself one of the 13 claiming wrongful termination. Chhun, like the others, had suspended his ministry work to take a political position, in his case as a Cambodia National Rescue Party appointee to the National Election Committee.
He ultimately resigned from that position in protest of the opposition party’s forced dissolution last year, but was terminated when he tried to return to work for the ministry.
Chhun said yesterday the firings are an “injustice” and “discrimination” against he and the 12 others, all of whom are former opposition officials.
“This is not a valid reason, that [we] were absent from work or quit the job,” he said.
A petition was also filed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet yesterday.
Chhun said if the premier’s cabinet doesn’t take any action on the matter, the teachers will file complaints to international groups asking them to pressure the Cambodian government to give them back their jobs.
Yien Chhoukrath, one of the fired teachers, said he submitted his letter to return to work on November 29, less than two weeks after the CNRP’s dissolution and his departure from politics, but was only fired for being “absent” months later.
Chuon Naron couldn’t be reached, and ministry spokesman Ros Salin has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
San Chey, of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said it’s “not a good process” if the ministry doesn’t give employees notice before terminating them. “I encourage a face-to-face meeting between the Ministry of Education and the officials who were fired.”
Additional reporting by Yesenia Amaro