Phnom Penh: It has been awhile now that the people of the city and some provinces have complained about their electricity bills. Most people say that the amount of power they use in their houses is the same as previously, but the bills are double or three times higher than normal. Until now, they have no answer as to why their bills cost them so much money. My own bill suddenly jumped from 9USD to 30USD then to 75USD and now 40USD.
Without a suitable clarification the Electricite du Cambodge (EdC) have posted a new sample bill with a new warning message on it’s Facebook page that the consumers could end up in court if they make irresponsible posts that affect the honor of EdC. The EdC reserves the right not to solve problems posted on Facebook, according to the article on the Cambodia Daily August 19, 2016 and also stated in the electricity invoice.
Is the honor of the electricity company is more important than the rights of the citizens? The people have no freedom to speak out about the problems that they have been facing and this is called a democratic country?
According to the Cambodia Daily newspaper the Energy Minister Suy Sem has publicly accused critics of “mounting a movement to destroy his agency”. Therefore it would appear that if you question your electricity bill you are now attempting to destroy the Electricity Company!
Mr. Ti Norin the President of the Electricity Authority and Mr. Keo Rattanak the Director General of the EdC went on a Saturday TV talk show on PNN TV in June 18, 2016 to justify why the bill costs higher than normal. They appeared to say that there was nothing wrong with their electric meters, working systems, and that the people’s complaint on Facebook was just for fun.
However, many people were not satisfied with this explanation. Some requested for electric engineers to check their electricity meters, some asked where did the EdC buy the meters from?
Mr. Ti Norin said that the boxes were made in Germany. Confusingly, another spokesman Keo Rattank said that they bought the electric boxes from France, Switzerland, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, etc. This lack of clarity from the department has made it difficult for the consumers to trust the EdC and has generated criticism on social media.
A 25-year-old man, Lee who is a shop owner and one of the consumers in Phnom Penh has doubted that the electricity engineer who takes the reading of the meter wrote down the correct number. He said he cannot open the box himself and check out how much power he has used because the box is located on a pole above the ground and he does not have the key to open it. In other countries, such as England, the consumers can easily access their meters and are free to complain if the reading is not accurate. They are not punished or threatened with court action.
People such as Lee are curious if their electricity meter is working properly or if it is too old and the system does not record the numbers correctly.
The price per kilowatt is 720 Riels in Phnom Penh and it is a lot for the people who made less than 200 dollars per month such as factory workers, teachers, civil servants, office workers, vendors, etc.
32-year-old Socheat, a factory worker, said that she has been given a 50USD electricity bill yet her monthly salary of 140USD per month. This is not particularly fair as $50 would typically be more than the monthly rent for her rent room.
Furthermore, if we examine the left side of the electricity invoice bill there are three statements. The first one says that if you don’t pay by the due date that is put on the invoice, the EdC will cut off your power. So the facts are that the bills have increased, you are not allowed to complain about it and if you don’t pay it the company will disconnect your electricity supply.
Has the EdC considered that there may be children or sick people living in a house who would suffer if the electricity were cut off?
In general, it would be a good idea if Cambodia had independent electricity engineers who would re-examine the electric meters in the whole country. The Electricite du Cambodge could also set up payment plans for those who cannot afford to pay off the electricity bill instead of directly cutting off the power in people’s house.