Daily power outages are seriously affecting businesses in some parts of Phnom Penh, and have even hit the National Museum, leaving the key tourist attraction without power for hours on an almost daily basis, officials said Wednesday.
Staff at the museum reported almost daily outages during prime visiting times, meaning that tourists—having paid $3 to enter—have to look at exhibits in comparative darkness and oppressive heat.
“Visitors are complaining all the time,” said Chamroeun Bunrath, the museum’s deputy chief of security. “It’s definitely worse this year. This is a government building and all we ask is that they ensure we have power,” he said.
Museum Director Han Ouch said the frequency of the outages had increased recently and that he is now awaiting a reply to a letter he sent to the Ministry of Culture informing them of the situation.
Mann Chhoeun, Phnom Penh deputy governor, said everyone was affected by the outages and that his own home on Kampuchea Krom Boulevard was without power some days. Before referring further question to Electricite du Cambodge, he said the lack of power did “affect the development of the city.”
Chea Sinhel, director of distribution at EdC, said Phnom Penh’s problems were inevitable for a developing country. “If we have electricity everywhere, it means we are developed,” he added.
EdC has to cut off power in some areas during working hours because this is when the city’s businesses use the most power, Chea Sinhel said, adding that his technicians cut off supply on a schedule to ensure power for other parts of the city.
This happens almost everywhere, Chea Sinhel said.
However, he added that the EdC screened “categories of customer,” to decide who will get power and when, and that the Royal Palace and government buildings should always be able to access electricity. But in some cases government buildings lose power too, he said.
In Russei Keo district’s Chroy Changva commune, grocery shop owner Prak Sopha, 57, said her power cuts out every day. “[EdC] say they need the power for the city center, as it has most big businesses,” she said.
The Hotel Swiss Pilatus, located on Tonle Sap Street on the East side of the river, is also facing problems. Receptionist Phorn Nhan said the establishment has had to purchase a generator which burned diesel at a rate of about $5 an hour.
“We already have to pay around $500-600 a month to EdC.” He continued. “Any profit we make at the moment seems to be spent on diesel.”
SRP Lawmaker Keo Remy called the daily outages in the capital city an “embarrassment.”
“The government is not treating the issue with enough urgency,” he said. “There have been too many excuses.”