Former unionist and election official Rong Chhun, who resigned from the National Election Committee (NEC) following the forced dissolution of the opposition, has been fired from the Education Ministry for being absent without permission.
Chhun quit as a member of the NEC in November in protest of the controversial dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party for its purported attempt to overthrow the government. A frequent government critic and the former president of the Cambodian Independent Teacher Assocation, Chhun said he was granted a leave of absence from the Education Ministry’s Research Department to work for the NEC in 2015.
He applied to rejoin the department on January 3, only to be informed at the end of last month that he had been terminated for being “absent without permission”, effective retroactively from the start of the year.
“I am speechless because they allowed me to take leave without salary. And now when I want to return to work, they delete my name,” he said.
Ministry spokesman Ros Salin said a 1999 sub-decree required officials on special leave to come back soon after the end of another assignment. After resigning from the NEC on November 21, Salin reasoned, Chhun should not have waited until January 3 to reapply with the ministry. “In the event they have not requested to come back to work, the ministry will take action following the procedures,” he said.
Chhun contested Salin’s justification for the termination, saying civil servant guidelines required that a verbal and written warning be given to employees before firing them.
“I can say it’s more politically motivated than any other issue,” he said.