About 600 villagers blocked the street in front of the Banteay Meanchey provincial governor’s office in Serei Saophoan City yesterday to once again protest a hike in the price of water, villagers and authorities said yesterday.
Soum Chankea, provincial coordinator for the human rights group Adhoc, said 14 representatives of the protesting villagers filed a complaint with Adhoc on Tuesday.
“If there is no fair solution for the villagers, I will find one for them,” Mr Chankea said. “The authorities shouldn’t agree to the water-supply company’s request to increase the price of water before learning about the income of villagers.”
Villager representative Pohn Sophea said residents went to the provincial governor’s office yesterday to protest Koun Apaivath Development’s decision last month to raise the price of a cubic meter of water to 1,900 riel (about $0.48) from 1,600 riel (about $.40) after the deputy governor failed to deliver on a promise to find a solution by yesterday.
“Our residents came to get results from the governor. The protesters demand that the water company lower the price right now, from 1,900 riel to 1,000 riel per cubic meter. If they cannot meet this request, to then please keep the price at 1,600 riel,” Mr Sophea said, adding that otherwise the 100 families would stop using the company’s water.
Rem Phan, another representative of the villagers, said that after they protested from 7:30 am until noon, the governor came to address them.
“He said prepare 30 representatives to come to his office on Monday, Dec 6, to meet with him, the company and an official in the Ministry of Industry, Mining and Energy,” Mr Phan said.
Serei Saophoan City Governor Oum Reatry defended both the water company’s decision to raise its prices and the villagers’ right to protest the price hike.
“The company doesn’t just raise the price whenever it wants. They requested the price change because they spend a lot to produce clean water. But it is a good idea to protest high-priced water,” Mr Reatry said.
Huot Tong Lay, director of Koun Apaivath Development, said yesterday that he would participate in the Dec 6 meeting if invited.
“The residents don’t understand the difficulty of the company,” he added.