Infuriated over a recent jump in electricity rates, Kampot town residents stormed the Kampot province governor’s office on Tuesday, leaving only after Governor Puth Chandarith promised to lower the rates, officials and residents said.
Puth Chandarith said that he changed his late December decision to support Electricite du Cambodge’s rate increase because of the protest.
“Yes, there was a protest here. But we addressed the problem with the people. I told them that they can pay [$0.29] per kilowatt hour as before until EdC sets a new price,” the governor said.
But, he added, he can only forward the residents’ request to EdC to make the final decision.
Tann Kim Vin, EdC director general, said that EdC will abide by the governor’s pledge to the people.
“I follow whatever the Kampot governor decided on the decrease,” he said.
The protesters gathered outside the governor’s office gates Tuesday morning, forcing themselves past the guards and into the building’s reception area, said Puth Chandarith, who later met with them. Protesters estimate that 500 people took part in the incident.
In December, EdC requested authorization to raise rates to $0.35 per kilowatt hour to cover losses incurred over the years in Kampot. The highest rate charged in Phnom Penh is $0.19 per kilowatt hour.
The move pushed residents beyond the breaking point, protesters said Tuesday.
“I have seven children in my family, and we cannot get enough [money] to support them,” said protester Ra Vy, 44. “I want the price to be as cheap as in [the province’s] Kompong Trach district.”
In Kompong Trach, which is linked to the Vietnamese electrical grid, residents pay only $0.15 per kilowatt hour, he said.
“It is the duty of the governor to keep electricity affordable for the poor people,” protester Tong Ka, 67, said. “He should not have agreed to such a price.”
According to Tann Kim Vin, EdC loses money each month in Kampot. The government’s Electricity Authority of Cambodia had approved $0.29 per kilowatt hour for the area starting next month, he said. This was to coincide with two new EdC power plants in Kampot town that will start operating next month, he added.