Prime Minister Hun Sen announced on August 23 that all civil servants and members of the armed forces will receive a pay raise in 2023, with teachers and medics receiving the highest increases.

Hun Sen said that over the last two years, the salaries of teachers and professors, as well as civil servants across the country, had been frozen due to government budgets being re-tasked to fight against Covid-19.

“In 2023, civil servants and the armed forces, as well as retirees, will receive pay rises,” he said, noting that income declined and expenses grew in 2020 and 2021. But this year, income rose while spending was curtailed.

The premier pointed out that the costs of quarantining people and treating patients, Covid-19 vaccine purchases and increased payments for medical staff meant that the state was spending far more than it was earning during the pandemic.

“Some medics worked double shifts and then found themselves needing treatment or quarantine and did not see their families for months at a time. Naturally, we had a lot of expenses, but our income dropped as we had to lock down the country – meaning our exports, imports and economic activity also declined,” he elaborated.

Covid-19 expenditure has now fallen slightly and income has risen, he added.

“We always planned to raise salaries. Teachers and medics will receive the highest increases as we prioritise education and health. I hoped the armed forces and other civil servants will not envy their salaries,” he said.

Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport spokesman Ros Soveacha said teachers within the state employment framework nationwide will receive a monthly salary of 1.5 million riel [$375] a month.

He said the ministry intended to enhance the quality and livelihood of teachers by raising their incomes. Teacher’s salaries in 2015 were between 500,000 and 1.2 million riel. In 2022, they range from 1.2 to 2.1 million riel.

“The prime minister has informed the public that from 2023 onwards, all teachers’ salaries will be at least 1.5 million riel,” he added.

It Naran, a grade 11-12 mathematics teacher at Chea Sim Rakchey High School in Reakchey commune of Prey Veng province’s Ba Phnom district, was elated to hear that the prime minister had confirmed the pay rise.

With the increases, she said primary school teachers will receive the bigger pay rises as their original salaries were lower. Those teachers who are already in the top income brackets for high school will see smaller increases.

Naran said that as she has a higher education degree, her salary was already higher than many other teachers, and would soon see an additional 100,000 riel per month.

Separately, Hun Sen confirmed the establishment of a Vietnamese language department at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), saying it cost nothing and would benefit the Kingdom.

He explained that it would benefit Cambodia in terms of business, help scholarship students prepare for study in Vietnam and enable more people to learn about the Kingdom’s neighbour.

“Our students will learn efficiently in the new department. If someone wants to do business with Vietnam, they will be able to send their staff here. There are only positives from this new development. Whether you learn French, English – or any other language at all – you are gaining knowledge, not weakening your own heritage. Why are people so convinced that learning this language presents a second Khmer Krom?” he said.

According to the ministry, the new language department will offer degrees in three subjects –Vietnamese studies, Vietnamese translation and interpretation, and Vietnamese business communication. RUPP not only teaches Vietnamese, but also French, English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Thai, and plans to introduce other languages in the future.