The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has no plans to comply with a request from the Turkish ambassador to shut down Zaman schools in Cambodia, a spokesman said yesterday.
Last month, Turkish Ambassador Ilhan Tug said his country was seeking the closure of all schools affiliated with the Gulen Movement, founded by Fethullah Gulen. Gulen has been labelled as a terrorist by Turkey and is accused of being the mastermind behind the recent attempted coup.
The ministry – which yesterday was promoting scholarships for students to attend the Zaman International secondary school on its Facebook page – has been notably silent on the matter.
However, Ministry Spokesman Ros Salin yesterday said the “status quo” would continue. The ministry could suspend a school’s licence if the institution did not comply with regulations, he said, “but in this case, it’s a political matter”.
“It’s a matter of bilateral relationship between two countries,” he said. “We cannot take any action at the technical level.”
Salin said the schools – including the Zaman International secondary and primary schools in Phnom Penh along with Zaman University – have undergone regular inspections.
Inspections covered the school’s programs, management and facilities. When schools were not in compliance, they faced punishment, he said. “Normally, if the schools are inspected, and the schools are in compliance, they continue to run as normal,” he said.
Salin added that any action against the Zaman schools would need to come from higher up in the government.
Hakan Atasever, public relations director for Zaman, said school officials hadn’t received any notifications from the government. “We are operating as normal,” he said.
Chum Sounry, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, said the ministry still had not received an official request from the Turkish government to shut the schools. “Without a request, we do nothing,” he said.
Commerce Ministry spokeswoman Soeng Sophary said her ministry also had yet to receive an official request.
Regardless, she said officials can’t simply close the schools. Discussions and planning would need to take place before any action. “There are many steps to follow,” she said.
The Turkish Embassy said the matter was an ongoing process, which had already begun. The “official demarche” was made last week.
“We prefer not to disclose any further details for the time being,” the embassy said via email.