Wat Lanka Monks in Dispute With State Electricity Provider

About 200 monks from Phnom Penh’s Wat Lanka on Thursday called off a protest against the planned construction of an electricity distribution substation on the pagoda’s land by state electricity provider Electricite du Cambodge (EdC), pending negotiations with the company.

Having assembled to make banners for a protest march to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s home, the monks agreed to postpone the demonstration after their commune chief said EdC had agreed to temporarily halt construction on the substation—which is still in the preliminary stages.

“We never agreed for Electricite du Cambodge to use the pagoda’s land to build this substation. They did not inform the monks here,” said chief monk Sao Chanthul, adding the march would still take place if a solution was not worked out soon.

Boeng Keng Kang I commune chief Prak Maly said that she had spoken with Hang Touch, a representative of EdC.

“We negotiated with the monks and the EdC and we told the EdC to discuss things with the monks before building it,” Ms. Maly said.

“We think that EdC was wrong in what they did because they did not inform the monks first.”

Sao Chanthul, the chief monk, suggested that such a solution would best involve EdC agreeing to provide free electricity to the pagoda in exchange for building the substation.

Hang Touch, EdC’s cable chief, said such an exchange was impossible, explaining that even Mr. Hun Sen is billed for electricity use at his homes.

“We built this substation for the public, not for EdC or for me personally. We cannot provide electricity free to the pagoda. It is EdC’s rule, even for the prime minister,” Mr. Touch said.

He added that he hoped the monks would realize that electricity distribution was a public good.

“The pagoda is the property of the public and EdC has to provide electricity to the public,” he said.

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