PM Slams School for Barbering Boys’ Hair

Hun Sen has slammed a Battambang school that cut male students’ hair it deemed too long as punishment, calling on them to treat pupils “like our children”
A teacher cut a male student’s hair in Battambang. Kiripost via school Facebook page
A teacher cut a male student’s hair in Battambang. Kiripost via school Facebook page

Prime Minister Hun Sen criticized a Battambang high school after a video of teachers cutting male students’ hair in the classroom as a form of punishment went viral on social media.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh on Thursday, Hun Sen said the school, which is named after him, should have treated students like their own children and they should not have been disciplined because their hair was too long.

However, he also urged people to also stop talking about the issue.

“Teachers, if we want to correct, it should not be by using hair clippers to cut students’ hair in the middle of the classroom. Our students are like our children,” Hun Sen said.

He added that as the school has hair clippers, they should be used to cut students' hair properly and that some teachers’ hair looks longer than students.

“I would like to ask for the change of attitude of forcing students to have their hair cut,” he said, adding that he has also heard that the school requires students to have military-style cuts.

On January 23, the school posted on its Facebook page that teachers holding hair clippers and scissors were implementing discipline by cutting male students’ hair.

The post received criticism online, prompting a debate that led to a visit to the school by Battambang Education Department officials on Wednesday to educate management.

The school said in a statement it tries to strengthen discipline by inspecting students’ clothes, make-up, fingernails, toenails and hair.

It added that during the January 23 inspection, some students were found to have inappropriate hair styles. The statement confirmed the school has been implementing this form of discipline since 2017.

It said that at the beginning of each school year, the school informs parents and guardians of students about the discipline.

Pa Chanroeun, president of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy, said he understands the intention of the school, which he does not perceive as bad. However, he believes the way the discipline was delivered makes it an immoral act that can lead to violations of rights and damage the dignity of young people.

“The way in which the teachers or the school's disciplinary council strengthens the discipline or punishes it is called negative discipline, which was done in ancient times. In the modern education era, people do not do this,” Chanroeun told Kiripost.

“They no longer use methods to make students shameful. They use methods that set a positive tone and encourage students to improve and follow the school in a way that is considered good for them.”

Licadho's operations director, Am Sam Ath, said each school usually has its own rules, but they all seek the same goals of good discipline and respect from students.

“I support disciplining students to respect school rules, but all punishments should be appropriate. To cause the serious abuse to students that we have seen in the past, and some schools that have beaten [students], need to be criticized,” Sam Ath told Kiripost.

Deputy provincial governor of Battambang, Soeung Bunrith, said he disagrees with the school.

“Discipline is not appropriate in the current situation. A school principal, teachers, and disciplinary councils should call students to be instructed to cut their hair short. If students still refuse to cut their hair short, parents or guardians should be invited to guide their children,” Bunrith told Kiripost.