For the past week Cambodia has been experiencing major power cuts, more than the usual shortages. Actually the past four or five years in Phnom Penh have been relatively good after the Cambodian government erected power transmission lines and started buying electricity from Vietnam. It was good enough that at DDP we got rid of our generator because we weren’t using it any more.
All of a sudden, though, the government instituted six-hour rolling blackouts, starting after breakfast and ending at lunch time, or starting at lunch time and going to supper time. The following day the schedule switches so a morning blackout today means an afternoon blackout tomorrow.
The government has been quick to blame it on climate change. 60% of Cambodia’s electricity is hydropower and now at the end of the dry season there is little water in the reservoirs. Yes, the lack of rain has made the problem worse but the problem is caused by the government, not by climate change.
Look at the map. Thailand is our neighbor to the west. Laos is to the north. Vietnam is to the east. We’re all part of the same little peninsula. We have much of the same terrain, the same weather. But Thailand has electricity. Laos has electricity. Vietnam has electricity. What’s the difference? The government.
The governments in the other countries know how to plan and implement. They see people moving to the cities. They see cities growing higher and higher with skyscrapers demanding more electricity. They see the lifestyle increasing, especially the demand for air conditioning. And they plan for it.
The government of Cambodia is incompetent in many ways and this is an obvious example. The prime minister loves to let everyone know that he is the longest serving leader in Southeast Asia, more than three decades. These electricity problems arose since he took power. Guess who should take responsibility for the sad situation we find ourselves in now?