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Electric bill hike gets thumbs down

More than 200 villagers in Preah Vihear town thumb-printed a joint complaint to rights group Adhoc over the weekend asking them to appeal to provincial authorities to intervene after their private electricity company raised its prices by more than 1,000 riel per kilowatt hour, NGO officials said yesterday.

According to Lor Chan, a Preah Vihear provincial co-ordinator for Adhoc, villagers protested the price hike at the province’s Department of Industry, Mines and Energy last Friday, then filed the joint complaint asking Preah Vihear Electricity to stick to the terms of a 2003 contract with provincial authorities that fixed the price of electricity at 1,500 riel per kWh for 30 years, and to replace their electricity metres, which they say are faulty.

“They noticed that the metres they are using are faster than normal, but the company does not want to change metres,” Chan said. “If anyone wants to change, they charge too much, about 300,000 riel, when a regular metre costs about 40,000 riel.”

According to protester Sao Vanthy, 41, the price started gradually climbing from 1,500 riel per kWh sometime last year, finally hitting 2,600 riel per kWh.

“We villagers waited to see when the price would go down because oil prices have decreased,” but prices didn’t fall, he said.

Sam Neang Ny, former director of the province’s Department of Industry, Mines and Energy, now an adviser to the department, said that the company took off 100 riel per kWh, and that the price was fair, since the cost of diesel has risen.

However, he added, after some informal tests, he agreed that the metres were faulty, and informed Preah Vihear Electricity, which agreed to refund the difference to affected customers.

Preah Vihear Electricity officials could not be reached for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Phak Seangly at seangly.phak@phnompenhpost.com

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