Oil Tycoon To EdC: Pay Bill Or No Refill

Petroleum tycoon Sok Kong warned Wednesday that he will stop supplying diesel to state-run Elec­tricite du Cambodge if he is not paid the $5 million he says EdC owes him.

The debt should be paid back in $1 million increments per month for five months, said Sok Kong, pres­i­dent of Cambodian petroleum giant Sokimex Co.

“They broke the contract,” Sok Kong said.“I told EdC 20 times al­ready and offered two months for EdC to clear the debt.”

“They reply that we will solve, we still solve” he added. “But up to now, there is no money.”

He said Sokimex won’t yet cut off diesel supplies entirely but will begin cutting them back slightly.

“If they don’t pay me, how do I purchase petroleum from outside?” the tycoon asked. “And how do I supply EdC?”

Tan Kim Vin, director general of Electricite du Cambodge, confirm­ed the $5 million debt to Sok­imex on Wednesday and said EdC had the money on hand and would soon pay the energy giant.

“I believe that we will pay the debt late this week,” said Tan Kim Vin. He said the company was simply waiting for Minister of Eco­nomy and Finance Keat Chhon to return from abroad and officially approve the payment.

He said EdC has been slow to pay Sokimex because the Ministry of Finance has been slow to provide EdC with sufficient funds.

“The ministry owes me, and then I owe Sokimex,” Tan Kim Vin said.

He also said that because diesel supplies had been cut back by Sokimex, some generators were not running. But he insisted the main reason for recent power outages is high client demand and world oil prices hovering at about $60 a barrel. Many hotels and garment factories have stopped using their own generators because they can no longer afford to pay for diesel, he said.

“Even if we buy 30 megawatts from private firm Khmer Electrical Pow­er, we still don’t have enough,” Tan Kim Vin said.

If there were more rain, he claimed, the Kirirom hydroelectric plant would be able to make up the difference.

Another senior official at EdC, who asked not to be named, said power outages may be the result of routine maintenance on EdC equipment.

“I can’t say exactly when there will be electricity and no more cuts,” said another top EdC official who requested anonymity. “We can’t really promise when there will be enough power and cuts will stop…. We cannot know if tomorrow it will rain or not.”

He, too, placed his hopes in the Kirirom hydroelectric plant. He compared the situation to the drought affecting farmers.

“Like farmers, we expect that this season rain would fall, but it is still dry,” he said.

Phnom Penh residents have re­ported frequent power outages in recent weeks and expect them to continue. They also expect energy prices to continue their up­ward climb.

“[Power] was off for two or three hours in Chroy Changva commune, Russei Keo district,” said Sim Lem, 55, a villager who runs a small business at the riverfront. She also said that in the past, when power outages were frequent, her bills went up.

The Council of Ministers recently announced an electricity price hike, which EdC officials said would help the company survive and become profitable.

Increased gasoline and electricity prices have hiked up the prices of other goods as well, according to recent figures from the Ministry of Planning.

This price of gasoline this week increased to 3,350 riel per liter from 3,300 riel.



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