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On Teachers’ Day, a Call for Higher Salaries

Cambodian teachers holding banners with slogans demanding the government to increase their salary and national budget for education, and to admit freedom of association, attend World Teachers Day celebrations march in Phnom Penh, on Monday.

About 300 teachers gathered on Wednesday, International Teachers Day, to demonstrate against low salaries that they say are unable to keep up with the rising cost of living.

The teachers, from 18 provinces, gathered at Freedom Park in the capital, the only sanctioned space for such demonstrations, to demand monthly salaries of $250. Cambodia has more than 100,000 teachers.

Later in the day, authorities allowed 15 teachers with a petition for higher salaries to walk with banners from Freedom Park to the Ministry of Education, the prime minister’s office building, the National Assembly and the Senate.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said at Freedom Park that an increased salary would be a boon to the country’s development.

“Then education will have quality,” he said.

Ros Tith Malay, a teacher at Boeung Trabek primary school, said during the gathering that her $80 monthly salary was not enough to purchase goods in the market. Such low salaries forces them to charge daily fees from students and other forms of corruption, she said.

“Our salaries are not equal to the foreign dogs you [government officials] are raising in your houses,” she said. “We take money from the students. We are very ashamed and sympathetic…for the students. We don’t want to do this, but we need to fill our stomachs.”

“The goods in the market are high, but my salary is too low,” said Yan Chamroeun, who officially earns $72 per month at his post in Kampong Cham province.

A cabinet member for Prime Minister Hun Sen confirmed the office had received the teachers’ petition for higher salaries and was considering it.