Phnom Penh Villagers Protest Against Electricity Middleman

About 50 villagers from Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district staged a protest Thursday afternoon outside the Daun Penh district headquarters of state utility Electricite du Cambodge, accusing a local middleman of privately selling them EdC power at exorbitant rates.

The protesters said that residents of five Khmuonh commune villages were required to pay as much as 2,500 riel per kilowatt-hour to local EdC official Ul Sok Heng, who they say claimed to be selling electricity generated by EdC.

“We just want to connect to the electricity directly from the state,” said protester Un Sam Ol, 28. “We wonder why this has taken so long.”

Un Sam Ol said that last month Ul Sok Heng had increased prices from 1,600 to 2,500 riel per kilowatt-hour, a price villagers cannot afford, and that the power he delivered was unstable and weak.

EdC technical division chief Pean Ratha, who met with some of the protesters, said by telephone that the unauthorized resale of EdC power is illegal and that he would report the villagers’ allegations to his superiors.

Ul Sok Heng could not be contacted Thursday, but earlier this month he said that he was operating his own power company and that the price increases were because of equiptment up­grades, including a new generator.

The residents from Trapaing Svay, Samrong, Samrong Thmei, Banla Sa’ut and Khmuonh villages, are scheduled to be connected to the EdC grid next year, said Pean Ratha. “I will help quicken the network construction,” he said, adding that villagers had agreed to seek mediation via the Khmuonh commune chief’s office.

 

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