Agreement Reached in B Meanchey Water Protest

An ongoing dispute between residents of Banteay Meanchey province’s Serei Saophoan City and the owner of a local water-supply company on the price of water was resolved yesterday after another meeting between village representatives and the company owner, mediated by provincial and Ministry of Mining, Industry and Energy officials, villagers and authorities said.

The dispute stemmed from a November decision by Kaun Apaivath Development to raise the price of a cubic meter of water from 1,600 riel to 1,900 riel, or about $0.48.

Village representative Keo Kousal said yesterday morning villagers requested the price to be lowered to 1,700 riel per cubic meter, but the ministry officials said that it was unrealistic, considering the high costs of providing clean water.

“This month the villagers will have to pay 1,900 riel and in 2011 we’ll pay 1,800 riel per cubic meter,” he said, adding, that the company will have to sign a contract promising not to raise the price until 2013.

Another representative, Keo Chamroeun said villagers no longer wanted to spend the time protesting.

“Villagers have to work, so we agreed to the 1,800 riel,” Mr Chamroeun said. “But some of the villagers don’t like that the company only lowered the price by 100 riel.”

The company didn’t address two other villager requests: to lower the connection fee for new customers, currently 250,000 riel, or about $62.50, to 150,000 riel, and for the company to build a second office in Kompong Svay commune, because of the distance some villagers have to travel to pay their bills in O’Ambel commune, Mr. Chomreun added.

The director of the Banteay Meanchey provincial offices of the Ministry of Mining, Industry and Energy, Nhel Bunthoeun, said he was satisfied with the agreement.

“We have reached a fair solution for our villagers,” he said, adding that he had already prepared a document to be signed by the provincial governor and the owner of the company agreeing not to raise the price of water before 2013.

The owner of Koun Apavaithy Development, Amnoath Viriya, could not be reached for comment.


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