Graduating teachers in Cambodia have been told by Prime Minister Hun Sen that they should not be depressed about their low salaries, rather that they should be grateful they are not being paid in bags of rice, as they would have been under the Khmer Rough.

The cynicism of this speech, under conditions where teachers are paid little more than $50 a month, and have been subject to police repression and arrest as a result of their long fight for a living wage, is staggering. It comes from the elite layer in the country, who are enriching themselves at the expense of the poor, including garment workers who have also suffered police brutality as they struggle for decent pay and conditions. Hun Sen sees no problem with the situation. On the contrary he told the new teachers: “The world always has rich people and poor people, and there are people who have high salaries and low salaries, this is very normal.”

The Cambodian government is praised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for its growth, based on garment exports but warned that 'Given the budgetary constraints, the near term priority would be improving efficiency and reallocating spending within the budget envelope.'  Thus international capital, through its mouthpiece the IMF, gives the green light to Hun Sen to continue paying his garment workers and teachers poverty wages. The only difference is that Hun Sen has not yet learned to mask his statements in the rhetoric of poverty reduction, which is used so effectively by the international financial institutions.