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Medical School Hopefuls Protest Failure

Prospective students for Phnom Penh’s University of Medicine undertook a third day of demonstrations Friday, angered that a high number of them had failed and swearing to continue protests until they are admitted.

Around 400 would-be medical students have been protesting since Wednesday, with less than 400 out of 1,800 test-takers able to meet the 50 percent minimum score.

Health Minister Mam Bunheng said Friday Cambodia needs “qualified doctors and nurses” and the National Committee of Examinations had judged correctly in admitting only the 369 who passed their entrance exams.

“If you are not qualified enough as a medical student, you cannot be a physician,” he said at a press conference Friday. “For example, if you are operating on someone and cut the wrong artery, and you cut the artery that bleeds a lot, the patient will quickly die.”

Officials from the ministries of Health and Education, the National Committee of Examinations, and several cabinet ministers met with five student representatives and the Independent Teacher’s Association Thursday night to resolve the problem.

At that meeting, officials decided to reduce the entrance score from 50 percent to 25 percent, which would allow an additional 507 students to join the university, filling a total 876 slots.

Even with the entrance score lowered to 25 percent, some students remained dissatisfied.

Students said the university had earlier announced that 1,481 slots would be open and they would continue to demonstrate every day until that many slots were filled.

Of the 936 students who scored below 25 percent on their entrance exams, 605 more need to be admitted to satisfy the demonstrators.