Koh Kong province has agreed to buy $5.2 million worth of electricity from Thailand, the first-ever deal of its kind between Cambodia and its western neighbor, officials say.
A Thai Embassy official said Thailand has never before sold electricity to Cambodia. Similar deals to hook up other border provinces with power companies in Vietnam and Laos also are being negotiated, authorities said.
The Trat Provincial Electricity Authority has agreed to provide energy to the capital and the surrounding Mondol Seima district, according to Koh Kong Governor Rong Plamkesan.
“People here are 100 percent happy about the new electricity deal because it will be cheaper than the private electric company,” Rong Plamkesan said Sunday.
The province has agreed to pay $5.2 million for 2 megawatts of electricity from the authority, the governor said. The province has the option to purchase another 8 megawatts, and can renegotiate the price after that, he added.
Two megawatts will be enough electricity to last about five years, said Dim Dyna, director of energy for the province.
Koh Kong consumers will be charged $.15 per watt, Rong Plamkesan said. The Feng Savy Co, a private Cambodian firm, provides electricity in Koh Kong by generator and charges $.23. More remote districts will continue to be without power because of the large costs of hooking them up over mountains and water, Rong Plamkesan said.
As part of the deal, the Provincial Electricity Authority of Trat is investing $790,000 to hook up wires and lamp posts in Koh Kong. It is currently installing wiring in neighboring Trat province and will begin work in Koh Kong soon.
Ton Leang, deputy director of the energy department in the Ministry of Industry, said the province did not have to invest any money, and that the $5.2 million will be collected from user fees. The Ly Yong Phat Co, a private Cambodian company, will be in charge of collecting the fees, he added.
“This new company will be much cheaper and better for the consumers than the old one,” Ton Leang said.
He said Feng Savy’s current 700 kilowatt generator is not powerful enough, and power shortages are frequent.
A Thai Embassy spokesman said Monday the Koh Kong deal was not on the agenda when Second Prime Minister Hun Sen met with Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai earlier this month.
However, they did discuss a joint hydroelectric project on the Stung Mamam river, which runs parallel to the Thai border in Koh Kong province. The proposed dam would provide electricity to both countries, the Thai spokesman said. A feasibility study is underway as is a search for investors, he added.
Ith Prang, secretary of state for the Ministry of Industry, said more deals are on the way for border provinces.
Plans are in the works to buy electricity from Vietnam for Kampot and Svay Rieng provinces, from Thailand for Pailin and Banteay Meanchey province and from Laos for Preah Vihear and Stung Treng provinces, he said.
“We will not be buying power from abroad forever,” Ith Prang said. “But the government has been looking for investors since 1993 for hydroelectricity on the Mekong river, but [the investors] keep waiting to see about the political situation.”
Ith Prang said the government has called for development in the remote border areas a top priority to ensure the nation’s sovereignty.
“I want to see our people living and developing there. I don’t want to see foreigners living there….If we develop there, we can secure the boundaries of our borders,” Ith Prang said.