Market Vendors Rally Against Rising Electricity Costs, Fees

Hundreds of vendors at Phsar O’Russei protested at the market Wednesday against electricity price increases and new fees for public lighting, claiming that the cost hikes go too far.

The new costs raise the electricity price from 1,200 riel per kilowatt-hour to 1,500 riel and vendors are now required to pay 2,500 riel per month for public lighting, according to a letter dated Oct 28 from Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema granting the market’s private operator, the Lim Heng company, permission to raise rates. The new billing began Nov 1, the statement said.

But at a time of falling oil prices, the prices are too high, many protestors said. Petroleum is a major fuel for electricity generation in Cambodia.

The decision is at odds with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s speech Friday wherein he asked electric companies to lower their rates, said Yorng Soyeith, a cloth vendor.

“The electricity price is still increasing,” she said.

Yim Sophea, who sells curtains on the first floor of the market, said she will not pay the extra fees.

“It’s not reasonable. The price of oil is decreasing. Why is the electricity price increasing?” she asked. “If they cannot decrease the price they should keep the price the same.”

Sry Pheap, who sells clothes, said she never had to pay for public lighting before, adding that market officials told her they would cut her power if she refused to pay.

“If they want to cut electricity, it’s up to them, but we are having trouble selling goods these days,” she said.

Addressing the crowd with a megaphone, Prampi Makara District Governor Srun Srorn said he understood the crowd’s concerns and asked them not to protest but rather to file complaints, which he would bring to Kep Chuktema.

Lim Seng representative Norng Sophea said her company would insist on the new prices. Her company lost more than $10,000 in October because it had to run its generators often, she said.

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