Representatives from five NGOs operating in Ratanakkiri province’s Banlung City were questioned by a provincial court judge yesterday after a garbage collection company made a complaint that the organizations had failed to pay for its services for 10 months, a court official and NGO workers said yesterday.
Provincial court judge Thor Saran said he had summoned the NGO representatives after accepting a complaint last week from Chea Kuong, the owner of a garbage collection service that has charged $20 a month for its services since beginning operations last October.
Mr Saran said that 20 NGOs were named in the complaint, but that he only questioned representatives from the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, VOR-ORT, International Cooperation Cambodia, Psicologos Sin Fronteras and the NGO Network.
“Although the court has accepted the complaint, we have not yet taken court action,” Mr Saran said. “I just summoned them to appear at court to try and compromise first.”
Mr Saran said that provincial authorities signed an agreement to with Mr Kuong’s waste company last year that required NGOs and state institutions to pay $20 a month, but that NGOs immediately reacted and requested to pay $10 a month.
Voeung Borann, a project manager for Psicologos Sin Fronteras in Banlung City, said yesterday that the 20 NGOs named in the court complaint had never finalized their negotiations with provincial authorities about how much money they would pay to Mr Kuong.
Mr Borann said the NGOs were requesting that they start paying $15 a month, starting now. “We did not pay [previously] because it was in the period of negotiation between our NGOs and the provincial authority over the fees,” he said.
“At the time that we started negotiations [in October], we informed the garbage company not to come and collect our garbage. We are non-profit organizations and we don’t have a specific budget for this kind of service.”
Mr Kuong said yesterday that he had filed the complaint with the court because he needed the money he says he is owed by NGOs to pay his staff. “I owe my workers their wages because those NGOs rejected paying the fees for my services,” he said, before declining to elaborate on the nature of his agreement with the provincial authorities.
According to a letter sent to NGOs on June 25 by deputy provincial governor Mom Saroeun, the organizations owed Mr Kuong $15 a month, starting from last October.