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Villagers protest hike in electricity expense

Villagers protest hike in electricity expense

More than 60 villagers from Kampong Cham province’s Stung Trang district staged a protest on Monday at Arak Tnort commune hall, demanding answers for a massive price hike that has accompanied the installation of electricity meters ahead of a planned switchover to state-provided power.

Phan Phann, 58, Bek Antung village chief, told the Post yesterday that protesters were demanding a solution, as the new meters were racking up kilowatts at dizzying speeds.

“The meters move super fast, even when we’re not using electricity,” Phann said.

Private company Seng Try has been providing electricity to Bek Antung village for several years. The villagers claimed the price has sharply increased each year, rising nearly 10 cents per kilowatt-hour to 78 cents in the past two months alone.

“[Seng Try] increased the price and now the meters fly; they do not work normally,” Phann said.

A 62-year-old woman who declined to be named said many of the villagers are afraid to protest, fearing the company will shut off their electricity.

Authorities announced a few months ago that they will provide state-owned electricity starting in July, but the project has been stalled because installing the necessary electrical poles could potentially displace villagers in the area.

Commune chief Ros Vireth said he took 10 of the electrical meters to Electricite du Cambodge in Phnom Penh for examination yesterday.

“We had the meters checked and nothing is wrong with them. We suggest the villagers use them as normal,” he said.

The village’s old meters were replaced two months ago in order to handle the switchover to state-supplied power, and the price was set to decrease to 41 cents per kilowatt-hour, he added.

In order to keep up with the state-owned electricity, "the meters work somewhat faster. We will explain this to the villagers,” Vireth said.

During a protest last month in Kandal, protesters demanded state-owned electricity, claiming the private company they used charged much more than the state. Their protest was cut short when a commune chief told them the private company’s contract would end in just two years.

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