Gov’t Meets With Landlords to Discuss New Electricity Scheme

Less than a week after Prime Minister Hun Sen announced plans to reduce the price that migrant workers in Phnom Penh pay for electricity, the municipality hosted 12 public forums Monday to discuss a new payment scheme to be overseen by state operator Electricite du Cambodge (EdC).

In an effort to prevent landlords from profiting off the resale of electricity to their tenants, the government plans to outfit tens of thousands of rented rooms in the city with its own electricity meters, with renters paying between 610 and 820 riel ($0.15 to $0.20) per kWh directly to the EdC.

Landlords currently install their own meters and are allowed to set their own rates—often well above what they are charged by the electricity firm—for the electricity being used in their buildings.

At a public meeting with more than 200 building owners in Sen Sok district, Im Sophan, the head of EdC in the district, said the new meters will be installed throughout the city in the coming months.

“We are waiting for the meters to arrive from Thailand. There are 30,000 to 40,000 meters that will arrive in about two months,” he said.

A number of landlords at the meeting said the plan was flawed, as neither building owners nor tenants could afford to foot the bill for the new equipment.

Than Phearom, 36, a landlord in Phnom Penh Thmei commune, said workers would not be able to pay the security deposit of about $7.50 that the EdC would require from tenants.

“How will the worker deposit 30,000 riel to the EdC when they can barely buy rice for only 1,000 riel a day?” Mr. Phearom asked.

At another meeting in Russei Keo district between EdC representatives and more than 400 property owners, landlords also aired their objections.

“The EdC should not change anything,” said Sok Ny, an apartment building owner. “I will only take a little bit, not the same as in the past.”

But Kong Phalla, head of the EdC’s Wat Phnom branch, insisted that the new system was necessary.

“This project is to benefit poor people,” he said.

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