Teacher’s association seeks permission for march with petitions

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Teachers protest at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park on World Teachers’ Day in 2015. Hong Menea

The Cambodian Independent Teacher’s Association (CITA) plans to celebrate this year’s Teachers’ Day on October 5 with a public display, with Phnom Penh authorities saying that permission may be granted depending on the circumstances.

A meeting between Phnom Penh City Hall and CITA is scheduled for September 28, with the association expected to apply to mark the day in Freedom Park and then deliver petitions to relevant institutions.

The meeting will be chaired by Phnom Penh deputy governors Keut Chhe and Mean Chanyada. CITA president Ouk Chhayavy will attend, along with an additional 17 participants.

Chhe said on September 27 that the meeting was an important opportunity for both parties to ensure that the purpose of the day was clear.

“There were 150 people named in the request for this meeting. We will need to determine all of the details of what they are planning – who will take responsibility for the event, where will the petitions be taken, and how many people will join in submitting them? These are questions that need to be answered before we can make a decision about the event,” he said.

Chhayavy said the association would mark the day with the theme “Level of Teachers’ Status in Cambodia”. She wants the authorities to give CITA members the right to take to the streets and express their opinions, without hindrance to submitting petitions to the relevant institutions. She suggested that if permission is given, it will signal the level of democratic freedom for the public.

“Every year, the authorities allow us to come together to celebrate Teachers’ Day, but the problem is that the authorities limit participation and determine a set location. I think this affects our freedom of association. This year, we want see a new procedure where teachers can march to deliver their petitions to the places they want,” she said.

Chhe said the authorities would never fail to facilitate any assembly of people who wished to express an opinion, but said that marches could have a detrimental effect on an already congested city.

“We have never banned the right to freedom of expression because Cambodia is a democracy. Nonetheless, all such expressions must be in accordance with existing laws and regulations,” he added.

According Chhe, the authorities can give the association two options. The first is to invite the relevant parties to receive their petitions directly at Freedom Park. The other option would be for the association to select a representative who could apply to deliver the petition, provided he or she was accompanied by no more people than was appropriate.

While explaining this year’s theme, “Levels of Teachers’ Status in Cambodia”, Chhayavy said that the association wanted to improve the image of teachers. She would like to see them displaying more professionalism by not taking on catering contracts, offering tutoring services for cash or deducting scores from students who are unable to study full-time, she added.