Locals refuse to pay electricity fees in protest at Bedok Construction Company breaching its agreement

July 23, 2018

HURFOM: Bedok Construction and Engineering Company’s 24-hour electricity project in Northern Ye Township, Mon State began to operate on April 7th 2018. On July 8th, when the company came to collect the fees for residential power consumption, locals found that the fees were higher than what they had previously agreed. Furious, local villagers have protested by refusing to pay the fees.

This incident is the latest in a string of disputes between the company and villagers. In May 2018, local farmers petitioned the Mon State Parliament to force Bedok Company to remove electricity poles from their land, which the company had constructed without compensating the farmers. In June 2018, villagers reported that the company failed to properly fix village roads after the company’s trucks had destroyed them.

Before installation began, the company, in the presence of Mon State MP Dr. Min Soe Lin, held a consultation meeting with local villagers from Lamine, Maw Kanin, Kaw Dut, Thaung Pyin, Thaung Bone, Hnit Karen, and Tha Bway Thit villages at Rehmonnya Monastery of Lamine City.

At the consultation, the company and the local villagers agreed that the electricity would cost 285 kyat (US $0.20) per unit, tax included. U Nyi Nyi Lwin, representing Bedok Company, said the fee could be increased or decreased by 20%, and if there is a change in the electricity fee, the company would inform the villagers a month in advance. The company also agreed with the villagers that they did not need to pay for street lighting.

When the company collected the electricity fee this month [July], they said every household who has used the electricity [provided by the company] must pay 5,970 kyat (US $4.19) for street lighting. The company wrote in our electricity bills that if we don’t pay, they will cut off our electricity on the 17th of this month [July]. Another problem is that the electricity fee has been increased up to 425 kyat (US $0.29), including tax. None of the villagers can accept the change,” said Nai Chit Tun, an activist from Hnit Karen village.

Nai Chit Tun continued that none of the villagers knew why the electricity fee has been increased from 285 to 425 kyat, and the company had not explained to them clearly about their policy on changing the electricity fee.

Similarly, villagers from Tha Bway Thit have refused to pay the 7,650 kyat (US $5.37) fee per household for street lighting, according to U Thein Nyne, a local villager.

Before, when we agreed to buy the electricity, the company said the fee per unit was 285 kyat. But after setting up the electricity, they have increased the fee per unit to 425 kyat. There is no transparency. It’s totally not what we had agreed in the meeting,” said Nai Thein Tun, a local villager.

The company also promised that a tax stamp would be included on the electricity bill, and that the villagers would not need to pay a service fee. But their promise is seemingly far from the reality.

What’s happening now is that we have to pay 425 kyat per unit for electricity, more than 5,000 kyat for street light plus 500 kyat (US $0.35) as a service fee. We can’t accept these fees. We’ve been informed that the electricity will be cut off if we don’t pay the fees. We are planning a meeting on July 11th at the Village Administration Office [to decide how to respond],” said Nai Chit Tun.

At about 3pm on July 10th, U Nyi Nyi Lwin, a Bedok Company official, met with local villagers and administrators from Maw Kanin, Thaung Pyin, Thaung Bone, and Kaw Dut villages and Lamine City to discuss electricity usage for small-scale enterprises. At the meeting, local villagers presented their case about the fee for electricity and utility poles, according to Nai Way, Lamine Myo Ma 1 Administrator.

U Nyi Nyi Lwin responded, “I alone can’t solve this problem. I will discuss it with our committee. The company owner U Sein Win is currently travelling on business. I can give a reply only after he has returned.

On July 11th, Hnit Karen villagers organized a meeting at the Village Administration Office and formed a representative committee to negotiate directly with the company. If the negotiation does not go well, the committee will file a report to relevant government departments, the Mon State Chief Minister, members of the Mon State Parliament, and the Union Government.

HURFOM contacted Bedok Construction and Engineering Co. Ltd. for comment about the dispute, but the company replied that they cannot comment as their owner, U Sein Win, is abroad.

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