After Blackout, Hun Sen Goes On Defensive

After a nationwide blackout plunged the country into darkness for more than an hour on Thurs­day night, Prime Minister Hun Sen took to his Facebook page to deliver a live speech to the public, reassuring his followers that the outage was not an act of terrorism but had simply been caused by problems transferring electricity from Vietnam.

Phnom Penh and all 24 prov­inces were off the grid from about 9:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Thurs­day, causing widespread confusion, with concerned members of the public ringing radio stations to speculate about the possibility that a coup or a terrorist attack had occurred.

About half an hour after power was restored to the country, the prime minister assured the public via a live Facebook broadcast that the blackout had been caused by problems at a power station in Vietnam that supplies electricity to Cambodia.

“Today, I have to deliver a sudden speech about the nationwide electricity failure,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “I, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, apologize to the people and I would like to clarify to the people that the electricity failure is not a sign of any terrorist attack, but just a pow­er cut.”

“I would like to clarify again that it’s not a politically motivated act by any group, and it’s an incident that seems not to be a terrorist at­tack,” he added.

“While we were transmitting power from Vietnam to Phnom Penh and distributing it to various provinces across the country, the electricity in Vietnam was cut, causing an electrical failure in Phnom Penh and other provinces using the national network,” the prime minister explained.

Thursday was not the first time that Cambodia—which still relies heavily on energy imported from neighboring countries—suffered a blackout because of power outages in Vietnam. In March 2013, Phnom Penh lost electricity for six hours due to massive power cuts in southern Vietnam.

In a video posted to Facebook yesterday, Keo Rattanak, director-general of Electricite du Cam­bodge (EdC), Cambodia’s state-owned energy provider, confirmed that the blackout was the result of “technical problems” at a power station in Vietnam.

Mr. Rattanak said the outage bore close similarities to a 2003 blackout in North America that left large swaths of the eastern U.S. and Canada in darkness.

Kong Lyda, 37, who was watching television at her home in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district when the power went out, said she initially feared the worst.

“I thought that it might have been something serious that had occurred, but I didn’t think it was terrorism,” Ms. Lyda said.

“I just suspected that it had to be something unusual in terms of social insecurity, especially political issues, because many relatives living in the center of the city called me and said they were ex­periencing a blackout,” she said.

“I have only ever experienced a blackout in specific areas, not na­tionwide like this.”

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