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Cambodian School Denies Links to Turkish Cleric Gulen

FILE - U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose followers Turkey blames for a failed coup, speaks to journalists at his home in Saylorsburg, Pa., July 16, 2016.

A school in Cambodia has denied having links to the network led by self-exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey claims was behind a bloody coup attempt on July 15.

Rumors that the Zaman Group, which runs the Zaman International School (ZIS) in Cambodia, was part of Fethullah’s Hizmet movement were dismissed this week by a company spokesman.

“We strongly condemn the coup attempt in Turkey; we are so unhappy about that," said Hakan Atasever, public relations director for the Zaman Group. "For Zaman School, this is a groundless claim, so we definitely deny the link with a terrorist organization.”

He added that the school had called upon the Turkish envoy to Cambodia to make it clear to the government that no links existed between Zaman and Hizmet.

“It is not going to affect the whole school process because it is not an official explanation made by the Cambodian government,” he said.

Ros Salin, a Ministry of Education spokesperson, said the issue was “a diplomatic issue between one country and another. Therefore, the Education Ministry has nothing to do with this yet.”

Independent institution

ZIS is an independent coeducational school with about 2,000 students. Founded in 1997, it has four main campuses divided into three categories, including kindergarten, high school and university. Each of these divisions is led by a principal.

In an interview with VOA Khmer, Atasever said that after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia needed human resources, and Zaman saw an opportunity to contribute to the country’s future.

“The vision of school is to bring up individuals to have responsibility, to educate students to be capable enough to serve their own country,” he said.

The school is licensed by the Cambodian Ministry of Education, and it is a member of the Council of International Schools.

Having operated for almost 20 years, the school teaches English and Khmer in classes as it follows the Cambridge system and international curriculum, as well as the official local curriculum set by the Ministry of Education.

Holasorya Soem, a sophomore in the Department of Banking and Finance at Zaman University, said she chose to study at ZIS because of the high standards of teaching.

“Zaman does not just have Cambodian students studying there. It’s full of people from different backgrounds and countries,” she said.

Pitou Phy, another student at the school, said that “in terms of quality and the environment, Zaman is a great educational environment.”

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Khmer service.

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