A CROWD of around 200 villagers in Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district attempted to stage a protest in front of provincial headquarters on Thursday to demand lower electricity prices, but were dispersed by military police, villagers said.
Villager Cham Roeun Kunthear, 46, said that the private electricity provider serving the district, the Chhay Neng Company, was overcharging its customers and only providing them with half of the capacity mandated by the government.
“We intended to ask the provincial governor to intervene on our behalf in our dispute with the Chhay Neng Company. First of all, government policy allows each household a 10-ampere connection installed for US$27.36. Chhay Neng charges us $57.50 for installation, more than twice as much as they should, and the connection is only 5 amperes,” she said.
“We would also like to see the monthly price reduced from 1,700 riels to 1,100 riels per kilowatt-hour. The reason we feel justified in asking for this price reduction is because an officer of Electricite du Cambodge (EDC) met with us on October 19 and told us that the EDC charges households in similar villages 1,150 riels per kilowatt-hour,” Cham Roeun Kunthear.
The EDC power grid, which extends partially into Kandal province, has yet to reach most households in its service range. In some areas, independent local power companies such as Chhay Neng fill in the gap, but often charge rates even higher than major networks.
Villager Yev Sophat said that after military police blocked the protesters from entering the provincial headquarters, Kandal Stung district Governor Choie Sobin came outside and promised to hold a meeting on the issue on Friday.
“However, I’ve already lost confidence in the district authorities, because I’ve met with them about five times already and I did not get any resolution,” he said.
“If tomorrow’s meeting does not have a positive outcome, we will go protest in front of the prime minister’s house.”
Choie Sobin confirmed that he had arranged for a meeting on Friday and said he had “invited EDC officers to come meet with the villagers face to face in order to reach a resolution”, although he did not indicate whether Chhay Neng representatives would be present at the meeting.
Chhay Neng, the owner of the Chhay Neng Company, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
The Kandal Stung protest comes as EDC customers, including those in Kandal province, learned on Wednesday that a steep price hike would take effect this month.
Since 2006, EDC customers in Phnom Penh as well as in Kandal province using less than 50 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month paid 390 riels per kilowatt-hour.
Under the new pricing system, those customers will pay 610 riels per kilowatt-hour. Those who use more than 50 kilowatt-hours per month will pay 720 riels per kilowatt-hour, EDC representatives announced at a meeting in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.