The leader of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA), Rong Chhun, was arrested by government forces on Tuesday 21st January and trade unionists in the country feared for his safety. He has now been released. This is the second time Chhun has been hauled before the authorities this year. He is also the leader of the trade union federation CCU, which has not only been supporting the teachers in their for a living wage but also the garment workers.

Both the teachers and the garment workers have been met with intimidation by state forces, but in the case of the garment workers, who have engaged in prolonged strike action, there has been police brutality which has resulted in at least five workers being killed and many injured. Moreover the police also brutally put down an occupation in Freedom Park in the capital Phnom Penh last month. Since 4th January, demonstrations have been banned in the country, where both garment workers and teachers live in extreme poverty.

 called for the immediate release of Rong Chhun, who was also summoned to appear in court earler this month to answer questions about the garment workers' demonstration, but later released.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund was glowing in her praise of Cambodia in a press release from last month: “Cambodia has navigated the world of interconnections well, thanks to its openness, sound macroeconomic policies and management, and increasing regional integration." Cambodia's 'success' is largely down to the garment workers on poverty wages who account for 70% of the country's exports, not to mention the teachers on a similar income.

Teachers can be proud that one of their own is one of the leaders of the struggle for economic and social justice in the country and we will be watching developments with interest and concern.