Teachers in Cambodia are subject to police repression as they wage their struggle for a living wage of $250 a month. Their union CITA has already been threatened with deregistration for calling its members to action in support of their claim. CITA's leader is due to appear in court later this month. Now teachers who have been taking part in action have been intimidated both by police and by some school managements. Teachers have been summoned to police stations and told to put their thumbprints to a document swearing that they will not protest.

One teacher told reporters: "I will not give my thumbprint. They can summon me to go anywhere they want, but I will never stop protesting until we get $250.” Teachers turned up at school but refused to work, although some were terrified into doing so when their schools were surrounded by police, who took the names of striking teachers and told them they would be arrested if they continued their strike. One teacher said that school administrators had attacked them and torn up their placards, which said: “If we don’t have full salary, we don’t have full wisdom to teach,” and “Teachers deserve dignity.”

Teachers are also aware that the police brutally put down an occupation in Freedom Park in the capital Phnom Penh, by forces campaigning for democracy, last month. Garment workers who have also been on strike for a living wage have been attacked by police using live ammunition and five have been killed and many more seriously injured. Education International has condemned the violence against the striking garment workers.

As we reported earlier this week: At present teachers in the country average little more than $50 a month, not nearly enough to survive. This low pay means that a huge proportion of them have to do second jobs like taxi driving or selling snacks. One of the most frequent jobs done by teachers is private tutoring - so that effectively parents are subsidising the state education system by making it possible for teachers to survive. This is deeply unjust both to parents and teachers. 

The Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia effectively destroyed the public education system. It is only by the hard work of desparately low paid teachers, that children in the country have any chance of an education at all, albeit one which is underfunded and suffers from corruption. The most recent World Bank report on Cambodian public services admits that low teachers' wages 'reduce the pool of people willing to become teachers' and suggests that teachers pay be improved but only 'in a framework of clear rules on qualification and teacher performance.' As so often in the global South, highly paid economists at the World Bank suggest performance related pay for teachers, without giving them either reasonable learning conditions or pay on which they can live. Interestingly the recommendation section of the report does not suggest  increasing teachers' pay, even linked to performance, but rather an increase in money for text books and needless to say data collection on targets.

Go to the Solidarity and Action page on this website to find out how to add your voice to the campaign against oppression in Cambodia