About 370 Protest Against Company Pushing Up Water Prices

About 370 residents from Banteay Meanchey province’s Serei Saophoan City gathered outside the provincial governor’s office to protest against a local water supply company raising water prices, protesters and officials said.

Protesters from Kompong Svay, O’Ambel, Preah Ponlea and Toek Thla communes lodged a complaint last week after the Kaun Apaivath Development company earlier this month raised the cost per cubic meter from 1,600 to 1,900 riel, or about $0.48, according to Soum Chankea, provincial coordinator for the human rights group Adhoc.

“Banteay Meanchey province does not have another company to compete in the market so they can raise the price to whatever they want,” Mr Chankea said, noting that protesters wanted the price returned to 1,600 riel.

Phon Sopha, one of the protesters, said villagers and workers demanded that the governor intervene to help lower prices after they submitted a petition with 1,700 names last week.

“If the provincial governor does not find a solution for the residents, they won’t stop protesting,” Mr Sopha said. “I request that water supply company in Serei Saophoan City please lower their prices.”

Another protester Keo Phalla said protests against Kaun Apaivath Development also happened in 2007 when prices were raised to 1,600 riel from 1,000 riel, or about $0.25. “Villagers cannot use water because it is too expensive,” he said, noting that people were not informed of the hike before getting their bills.

Huot Tong Lay, director of Kaun Apaivath Development, said that he received permission from the governor and the Ministry of Industry, Mining and Energy for the increase. “We use a lot of money for gasoline and equipment has become more expensive,” Mr Tong Lay said, adding that he spread awareness of the hike through the radio.

City governor Oum Reatrey said that the provincial governor had met the owner of the water supply company yesterday and would meet him again today along with ten representatives of the protesters.


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