Cambodia boots NGO that ran 550 rural schools

The organization was too close to the Cambodia Daily newspaper, the government says.
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Cambodia boots NGO that ran 550 rural schools A student reads a local language children's book in the new Room to Read library at Banlech Prasat Primary School, Prey Veng Province, Cambodia in this file photo.
Business Wire via AP

UPDATED at 7:20 A.M. EST on 2022-03-07

Authorities in Cambodia ordered a non-governmental network of more than 550 rural schools to shut down, apparently because of its relationship with a newspaper that has criticized the country’s government, RFA has learned.

The independent, nonprofit schools were established by Japan Relief for Cambodia and World Assistance for Cambodia (JRfC-WAfC). They provided English classes and computer training to rural students from low-income families, the network said on its website.

Local news outlet CamboJA reported that a Feb. 2 letter from Cambodia’s Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron, shared by teachers this week on Facebook, ordered the organization to cease operations.

The minister told RFA’s Khmer Service Thursday that the Education Ministry asked JRfC-WAfC to stop operating the schools because it is affiliated with the Cambodia Daily, an English language newspaper that often criticized the government of Hun Sen and was shuttered in Cambodia in 2017 on allegations that it hadn’t paid millions of U.S. dollars in back taxes.

The Cambodia Daily is currently owned and operated by a separate entity in the U.S. and broadcasts in the Khmer language online.

Even though JRfC-WAfC may no longer operate out of Cambodia, the schools that built by the NGO are still allowed to remain open since they were donated to the government after construction, the minister said.

The programs provided by the NGO will no longer be available, however, a fact that Ouk Chhayavy, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, lamented.

“We are sad about the closure because the NGO helped many poor students,” she said. 

CORRECTION: The original report did not make clear that the Cambodia Daily that currently broadcasts in the Khmer language online from the U.S. is owned and operated by a separate entity from the organization behind the NGOs.

Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.


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