Phnom Penh - Cambodian public and private schools have been advised by Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow Muslim students to wear headscarves if they so wish in an official decree published widely in national media Thursday.
"They can wear uniform according to school's internal regulation or their traditional Muslim clothes," the directive said.
Hun Sen's directive to allow Muslim students to wear the hijab, or headscarf, was in the national interest, it said.
Cambodia's Cham Muslim minority, which is estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands, is generally well integrated into the majority-Buddhist society and Cambodia has avoided religious tensions such as those in neighbouring Thailand's restive south.
However the failure of some schools to be flexible in their dress codes has reportedly led to some Muslims, especially females, dropping out of school rather than going against their beliefs.
The Cham, descendents of the once-mighty Champa kingdom which reached its peak in the 9th century, suffered systematic and terrible abuse at the hands of the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime, with an unknown number slaughtered for their beliefs.
But Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party, which has governed in one form or another since 1979, has gone to great lengths to grant the nation's Muslims equal rights and mainstream acceptance under a constitution which enshrines freedom of worship. (dpa)
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