The Cambodian teachers union (CITA) is threatened with de-registration if it goes ahead with a strike for a minimum wage for teachers of $250 a month. 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 demand for a living wage is just and legitimate. As one primary teacher told the Phnom Penh Post: “The biggest concern of the teachers is the low salary that makes it difficult for us to live. I have worked as a teacher for 32 years, but I receive only 320,000 riel [about $80] per month.” Yet, in a situation reminiscent of the ongoing struggle in South Korea, for calling a strike to press this demand, the state threatens to deregister the union, accusing it of getting involved in politics. Teachers in Cambodia have no right to organise or collectively bargain. Labour rights for other workers are also violated, today troops crushed a strike by low-paid garment workers in the country.

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.

Meanwhile, the teachers of Cambodia are denied the right to struggle for a living wage.