Outspoken government critic Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, says his group will be forced to suspend its operations next week due to a lack of
CITA, he said, has previously received support from donors including the United States and the United Kingdom since its founding in 2000. The organisation claims 9,450 members and has offices in 20 provinces.
“I will suspend our activities within the next week if I am not able to secure financial support from donors such as the UK and the US and other international groups and NGOs,” Rong Chhun said yesterday.
CITA’s work centres on advocating for higher education standards and better working conditions for teachers, though Rong Chhun said the group is also focused on issues including corruption, freedom of expression and territorial sovereignty.
“I am concerned that there will be no progress on these issues if CITA is silenced,” he said.
Rong Chhun faced arrest for public criticisms of the government’s border negotiations with Vietnam in 2003 and 2006.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy was forced to flee the Kingdom in 2009 over the same issue and faces a total of 12 years in jail on charges including defamation and incitement if he returns to Cambodia.
Sun Thun, a teacher and CITA official in Kampong Thom province, said it would be harder for teachers to agitate for their interests with CITA’s operations suspended.
“Individual teachers will not have a strong voice in advocacy,” he said.
Interior Ministry Khieu Sopheak said the government “regretted” the news of CITA’s suspension and said he hoped the group would recover the necessary funding.
Rong Chhun also heads the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, which he said would be unaffected by CITA’s difficulties.