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Cambodia deploys police as part of exam cheat crackdown

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PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia deployed 1,570 police at high-school exam test sites across the country on Monday as part of a government crack down on bribery and corruption in the education system.

Testing sites were cordoned off in the capital Phnom Penh and students were patted down by officials to check for cheat sheets and mobile devices as their relatives waited outside.

“We are doing all of this to guarantee transparency and quality in the education system,” Ros Salin, a Ministry of Education spokesperson, told Reuters.

In past years, students brought mobile phones and cheat sheets into exam rooms and bribed teachers to ignore cheating.San Chey, executive director at advocacy group Affiliated Network for Social Accountability Cambodia, said cheating was deep rooted in the Cambodian education system.

“Before, bribes in exams and test leaks were done openly, which helped to push up the pass rates,” he said.

The government blitz on cheating has seen exam pass rates drop in recent years. In 2014, the Grade 12 exam pass rates was cut in half to 40.67 percent and in 2015 it fell to 55.87 percent, according to Education Ministry figures.

Nearly 25,000 officials were involved in this year’s examination in which 93,755 students were expected to take their final exams before university.

“I appeal to all students to study hard for the exams and to not bring any documents or electronic devices into testing sites,” Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron said in a video address on Sunday. “If there are violations, you will automatically fail.”

Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Michael Perry