Prime Minister Hun Sen called for proper conduct in implementing school rules Thursday, reacting to a social media controversy over haircuts performed at a Battambang high school in which two teachers were criticized for shaving boys’ hair inside the classroom.
During a graduation speech at Western University’s graduation, Prime Minister Hun Sen reacted to two most recent viral Facebook controversies, including criticisms of TVFB’s Sovann Rithy’s reporting during a Phnom Penh traffic accident and haircuts performed at Sampov Loun’s high school.
“I do not understand,” he said, initially laughing about the two cases.
The haircut debate broke out Monday when the school posted about 100 images online of two teachers shaving students’ hair during the school day, prompting a social media firestorm. The school claimed that this was necessary for “discipline,” but critics claimed that it amounted to harassment.
One image shows an instructor waving an electric razor around. Male students observe the teacher approaching their friends, some of them with dejected looks; in one image, a student conceals his face with his palm while having his own head shaved. Some photos depict students who have had uneven areas removed from the backs of their heads.
“Please teachers, if we need to ask them [students] to have a proper haircut, we do not need to shave their hair inside the classroom like this,” the prime minister said.
“If their hair does not fit with the school’s hair rule, let’s prepare, and cut it properly for them. But based on what I see, the students’ hair is not even long like the teacher’s,” he added.
The prime minister then called on the teachers to change their behavior. Rather than forcing students to cut their hair, he said, teachers should talk with them about the particular school requirements. He then jokingly said the Information Minister Khieu Kanharith and late Deputy Prime Minister Sok An used to have long hair before they came to the office.
“And for now, we should stop mentioning [the two cases] and ending it here. Whatever they did and said, is already posted online,” he said.
The Battambang provincial education department director, Yi Songky, met with the high school’s management committee on Wednesday, the department said. Songky could not be reached for comment Thursday.