Locals unhappy as electricity company breaches contract: raises prices and charges extra fees

September 19, 2018

HURFOM: Southern Myanmar Development Co. Ltd., is an authorized distributor of electricity in Northern Ye Township, Mon State, and currently the company has been arguing with local villagers about the electricity fee. In the contract, the company promised not to collect a service fee and for the cost of the street lights; however, in reality, the villagers have to pay a 500 kyat (US $0.32) service fee and each household has to pay at least 5,000 kyat (US $3.16) for street lights.

Nai Wai, the administrator of Ward 3, Lamine Town, Ye Township, had his power cut on August 13th after organizing the locals to counter the exploitation at the hands of the company.

I wasn’t at home when the company came to my house to cut off the electricity. I knew nothing. When I reached home in the evening, my neighbor said my house had a blackout. So I went to a member of “Village Electricity Providing Committee” and requested him to ask the company why they cut off electricity in my house. I got a reply from the company that cutting off electricity was in accordance with the instructions from the above,” said Nai Wai, continued that he did not know the exact reason for why the company decided to cut electricity off to his house.

I’ve organized the villagers to pressure the company to change their system of collecting electricity fees and I revealed that the company has broken the contract and collected service fees and the cost of street lights. That’s why the company has cut off electricity in my house, I think,” continued the administrator.

Nai Wai sees the cutting off of electricity as a form of threat from the company to the villagers who dare to stand up to the company.

Similarly, a villager who cooperated with Nai Wai on some of the issues has applied for installing electricity in his house, but the company has not replied. Moreover, the company removed his metre box which was installed on the utility pole near his house, according to Nai Min Thein Tun Oo, an activist from Lamine.

After considering the process, I think a big company shouldn’t respond like that. I think that the company owner U Sein One would not give such instruction. It’s just the work of his staff,” said the local activist.

There were three villagers who have had their power cut in Lamine: the Administrator Nai Wai, Nai Min Thein Tun Oo, and Nai Ye Mon.

According to a local villager Nai Chit Htwe, in Hnint Karen village, villagers have to pay electricity fees that are much higher than the fee promised by the company, and more than 20 houses have experienced a power cut after refusing to pay the electricity fee.

For some households, the house owner has been in Thailand [for work] and they’ve just lit an electric bulb. They’ve used a very little amount of electricity. But they have to pay the cost of of the street light which are more than the fee they have to pay for their house,” said Nai Chit Htwe.

After the company breached their contract and collected service fees and increased electricity fees, unhappy villagers have been organizing meetings in their villages, negotiating with the company, and filing reports many times to the Mon State government and parliament.

On August 31st, the local villagers received a reply from the Mon State government, and the statement said that the service fee of 500 kyat has been canceled as of September 1st 2018. However, the cost of the street lights will remain the same, however the company has decided to reduce the time the street lights will operate.

They can’t give free for street light. The street light will be lit from 7 pm to 10 pm and from 4 am to 6 am. But the fee doesn’t decline. They just reduce the time of lighting the street light. We will pay less as the time of lighting reduced. Our victory is that the service fee has been canceled,” said Nai Chit Htwe of Hnint Karen village.

The local villagers replied to the company that they could pay 1,500 kyat maximum per month for the cost of street light.

Southern Myanmar Development Co. Ltd., has been running its project with the permission of Myanmar Investment Commission and it has a 10-mega-watt power plant to provide electricity in villages in Lamine Town, Ye Township. The project started on April 4th 2018.

 

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