Prime Minister Hun Sen reiterated his demand for the owners of garment worker housing to freeze rents in 2018 yesterday, telling the leasers to come to him personally if they disagreed with the order.
“I am thankful to the nieces who have sent me messages on Facebook . . . about the rental price increases. I took them and gave them to the minister of labour and Phnom Penh Municipal Governor [Khuong Sreng],” Hun Sen said, while speaking to around 16,000 garment workers in Phnom Penh’s Choam Chao commune.
In 2015, the National Assembly passed the Rent Control Act to prevent landlords and merchants from jacking up prices in worker-heavy neighbourhoods to coincide with wage increases. The legislation required that rental agreements be locked for at least two years, but workers say it has been repeatedly ignored.
“So the rental room will not increase in price in 2018; nieces and nephews pay the rental room in 2018 the same price that you paid in 2017 . . . If any landlord wants to raise the price, tell them to come and get it from Samdech Techo Hun Sen,” he said.
Garment workers frequently complain that minimum wages hikes are met with spikes in the price of rent and market goods, negating pay increases. Some workers told The Post this week that their landlords had already vowed to raise rent, despite the premier’s warnings.
Vong Boramy, a landlord in Choam Chao commune, said the orders put him in a “difficult situation”.
“Each time I increased the rent only $2 for the ground floor and only $1 for the first and second floor. Compared to other neighbourhoods, they always increase $5 at a time . . . If I knew that the government would ban price increases in 2018, I would have increased $5 each time in previous years,” Boramy said.
Theng Sokhom, another landlord in the area, said he would go along with the government orders, and feared if he tried to increase prices his tenants would walk out.
“The decision of the government to not increase the price for 2018 is OK for me; the renting price that I charge from workers right now is fair . . . If I do increase, workers may not be able to afford it,’’ he said.