Four days before July’s national election, Cheam Chin received a letter from Sar Mor primary school in Takeo province, where he worked as a secretary, that said school officials had transferred him and two teachers to other schools more than 30 kilometres away.
“The acting school director moved us to other schools far away from our homes,” Chin said. “They said I was absent more than 20 times in two months.… How could I have been absent that much? I am the one who records absences every day.”
Chin, who says he never missed a day during that period, suspects the transfers from Sar Mor in Traing district’s Khvav commune to schools in the district’s Thloak commune had more to do with the trio’s off-hours participation in the Cambodia National Rescue Party campaign than any performance issues.
In complaints filed with Adhoc, Licadho and the provincial and national education ministries, Chin, Chem Vannak and Klaing Chandara allege that then-acting school director Kem Tha’s decision to transfer them came after he caught wind of their support of the opposition party.
Current Sar Mor director Chhung Sathya denies the former employees’ allegations, and insists that his predecessor’s move came in response to their track records of poor attendance and improper conduct.
“The school did not move them to another school because they support the CNRP, but because they did not respect the school principal and were often absent,” Sathya said.
But notification of their transfers was the first indication Sar Mor gave any of the three that their performance was sub-par, Chin said.
In addition to individual complaints to various agencies, which all three filed about two weeks ago, the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association plans to register a complaint with Takeo’s provincial court on their behalf, CITA president Ny Chandaravuth said.
“We want all relevant officials to re-check and investigate this case,” Chandaravuth said. “I think the transfers were politically motivated, due to [Chin, Vannak and Chandara’s] support of the CNRP.”