Some 200 garment workers gathered on May 10 on Veng Sreng Street in Stung Meanchey III commune’s Damnak Thum Pir village in the capital’s Meanchey district to demand that the Phnom Penh municipal authorities help facilitate a 50 per cent reduction in monthly rates for rental units.

Cambodian Labour Confederation president Ath Thon told The Post on May 11 that the workers made the demand because they had not received their wages due to the lockdown. This came after Prime Minister Hun Sen urged landlords to reduce monthly rates as their tenants had encountered extreme financial difficulties.

He said over 90 per cent of landlords had still charged full price for rental units just like before the breakout of Covid-19. Some had allowed tenants to owe them back-rent, while others had even evicted them for failing to settle their bills.

“I think what they do reflects their difficulties. So, there are only two possible solutions. First, landlords should help by providing a 50 per cent reduction in monthly rates and, secondly, they can allow their tenants to delay paying rent,” Thon said.

Deputy municipal governor Nuon Pharat said the problem could be coordinated with a reduction of $20 in monthly rates, but this would be for only one month. He noted that while the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA) had agreed not to charge them for three months, the Electricite du Cambodge (EDC) was still charging for electricity consumption as normal.

Hun Sen on May 8 reiterated his call for landlords, EDC and PPWSA to temporarily suspend charging rent and bill for utilities for garment workers residing in the red zones or locked down areas.

He said that given the situation, they should show their sympathy for workers who have encountered hardships. Some owners had decided not to charge rents to their tenants or offered them reduction in monthly rates while some others had not followed suit.

“I know some landlords have taken out loans from the bank to build their rental rooms, so you [landlords] must also be facing hardship. You [and the bank] are also debtor and creditor. But I hope that you all understand the common hardship we are all facing,” he said.