prey nop district, Sihanoukville – An investigation starts today into a Sihanoukville electricity firm whose surprise price hike caused approximately 100 villagers to pull up an electricity pylon and barricade National Route 4 in protest late last month, a district official said Tuesday.
Prey Nop district authorities, officials from state-run Electricite Du Cambodge and three protester representatives will investigate the firm, which is located in Prey Nop and does not have a name, Bun Sarum, district governor, said by telephone. The probe will take 10 days, he said.
Investigators aim to find out whether the firm has been overcharging villagers, in which case it will be ordered to maintain its current price of $0.37 per kilowatt, he said.
“We will study whether or not the company has been making [an unacceptable level of] profit” by increasing the price to $0.42 per kilowatt, Bun Sarum said.
Neak Sao, one of three representatives from Somroang and Vealrenh communes, said Tuesday that 300 villagers will help investigate the firm’s accounts.
Their protest began Nov 27 after the firm cut power for about three hours while villagers were watching a boxing match on TV5, Neak Sao said.
Nhol Pang, a manager at the firm, said Sunday that power was cut because clients refused to pay the higher price for electricity.
Nhol Pang said the villagers had been warned one month in advance that their power would be cut off. He blamed the price hike on the rising cost of diesel.
Diesel prices increased from $475 to $625 per ton between August and September, he said. “It is not only affecting my business but others as well,” he said.
The firm has since reverted to charging $0.37, he added.
Enraged protesters were stopped from blocking the Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville road by Military Police, Leng Poeu, one of the firm’s clients, said Sunday. “The company [agreed] not to raise the price above [$0.37], even if gasoline prices go up,” he added.