300 Cambodian Teachers Strike, Demand Unpaid Wages


2003.12.29
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PHNOM PENH�Some 300 teachers from the northwestern Cambodian province of Pailin staged a brief strike Monday morning to demand up to three months unpaid wages, RFA�s Khmer service reports.

The teachers briefly closed their classroom doors before classes started Monday, refusing to teach until their demands for back pay were met. The peaceful strike ended the same evening after provincial authorities demanded the teachers receive their pay.

�Tomorrow, teachers will resume their teaching as usual. Many teachers received payment only for October and November and not yet for December,� Chuon Narong, head of the Provincial Cambodian Independent Teachers� Association, told RFA in a telephone interview. �Our essential conditions demand that the government respect and follow the order to pay us weekly.�

On Dec. 24 the Central Cambodian Independent Teachers� Association (CCITA) sent a letter to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen warning of a nationwide strike by teachers from Pailin, Steung Treng, Mondolkiri, and Oddor Meanchey provinces if the matter remained unresolved.

�This is the last choice we had to choose from because we sent hundreds of letters to the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Education with no answers,� Rong Chhun, president of the CCITA told RFA.

Monday�s strikes occurred after Cambodian Minister of Finance Keath Chhoun and Secretary of Education Im Sothy contacted each other the previous week to order the payment of millions of Cambodian Riels to pay the teachers. However, the action that followed was not quick enough to prevent the strike. Keath Chhoun told RFA the matter will be resolved, but declined to specify how much money will be paid.

However, Rong Chhun expressed skepticism at the government�s promise to pay �because the government is always doing something different from what they promised. It has happened so many times, it�s caused us great anxiety,� he said.

A Finance Ministry official, Ly Sothi, attributed the delay of payment to procedural and technical matters, �not because of the political deadlock in Cambodia.�

More than 1,000 teachers in Cambodia�out of 104,000 nationwide�have been facing the problem of delinquent salary payment since October. A teacher�s salary in Cambodia is equivalent to U.S.$30 a month. #####

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