Civil societies call for lifting of political discussion ban in Cambodia

High school students take part in a digital education class. - MoEYS

PHNOM PENH (The Phnom Penh Post/Asia News Network): Eight civil society organisations (CSOs) and associations have united in urging the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to revoke the prohibition on discussing social and political matters within educational institutions of all tiers.

Simultaneously, they have proposed the inclusion of lessons on civil and political rights in the national curriculum.

These recommendations stem from a joint statement on youth challenges, concerns and suggestions dated Aug 21.

Among the entities advocating for these changes are the Cambodian Youth Network (CYN), the Youth Resource Development Programme (YRDP), the Equitable Cambodia (EC), the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), the Centre for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL) and the Khmer Student Intelligent League Association (KSILA).

Citing provisions of the Constitution and the national youth development policy, these groups assert that Cambodians possess full rights to engage in civic, political, social, cultural and economic activities.

However, they point out that the prevailing prohibition on discussing political matters within public schools at all levels hinders young individuals from comprehending and engaging with these vital issues.

“The MoEYS should lift the ban on discussing social and political issues in public schools at all levels. The ministry should also consider integrating lessons on civil and political rights into the state curriculum,” read the joint statement.

Responding to these concerns, education ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha remarked on August 21 that officials consistently evaluate recommendations for enhancing the education, youth and sport sector. This evaluation process involves all stakeholders and adheres to official administrative mechanisms.

He reiterated that the ministry adheres to the law and pertinent legal documents in its operations.

Soveacha further explained that the ministry upholds human rights principles by implementing the Law on Education, particularly focusing on three articles within it.

Article 17 underscores the necessity of general education for educators’ holistic growth and development of knowledge, morality, and personality traits.

Article 34 emphasises that political activities within educational institutions must uphold neutrality, avoiding involvement with any political party.

“Political activities and propaganda within educational institutions must be prohibited,” he said.

Elaborating on students’ rights and responsibilities in education, he pointed to Article 35, which grants students the right to dignity and protection against physical and mental abuse.

He stressed the importance of adhering to institutional rules, gender equality values, and exercising rights responsibly while respecting the rights of others. This approach, he said, enhances students’ physical and mental wellbeing and academic performance.

Soveacha clarified that the ministry has long integrated relevant content into the curriculum, particularly within the subjects of Khmer language, social studies and ethics-civics at the secondary level (grades 10 to 12).

These efforts align with the groups’ call for fostering a more open discussion environment in Cambodian schools.

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Cambodia , education , civil , political , rights


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