A group of teachers surrounded the Honduran education ministry on Thursday in response to a government threat to punish them if they mount protests in schools.

The teachers, who have been mobilized for months over authorities' failure to pay them on time and new education laws they see as harmful to their interests, chained shut the main entrance of the ministry.

Speaking in the Caribbean district of La Mosquitia, Education Secretary Marlon Escoto told reporters that the teachers "won't be able to chain" the Cabinet resolution mandating sanctions for educators who occupy schools in protest.

One of the teachers surrounding the Education Ministry said the siege would last only a few hours, while Escoto vowed to bring criminal charges against the protesters.

President Porfirio Lobo has repeatedly criticized teachers for expressing their grievances in ways that disrupt classes.

"Why don't they protest on Saturdays or Sundays or outside class hours?," Lobo asked earlier this week, though without saying when the chronic problem of late paychecks will be resolved. EFE