Hun Sen to Meet With Fuel Firms Over Prices

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday that he plans to personally meet with the country’s petroleum retailers to address the fact that fuel prices in the country have not fully reflected downward global pricing trends.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh, Mr. Hun Sen said he would call the “big bosses” of the petroleum firms operating in the country in order to set up a meeting.

“I will meet with the gasoline sellers directly,” Mr. Hun Sen said, adding that it would be more difficult to convince foreign-owned firms to lower their gas prices than their local competitors.

“I will work directly, calling the big bosses to meet, but Cambodian companies are easier to work with than the foreign ones because they have to ask their owners overseas,” he explained.

Since the beginning of this year, the Commerce Ministry has held regular meetings with the seven major gas companies operating in Cambodia in an attempt to create new rules that will ensure that fuel prices at the pumps correspond to fluctuations in global prices.

In the most recent meeting with the ministry held earlier this month, the firms agreed to drop fuel prices by 100 riel during the Pchum Ben holiday last week.

Mr. Hun Sen said Monday that he hoped the discount, which took effect from October 9 and was set to expire on Thursday, could be extended.

“If lowered already, don’t raise [prices] up,” he said.

Independent economist Srey Chanthy said he believed the prime minister’s intervention in the petroleum market would have the desired short-term effect of reducing fuel prices.

“I believe that…when he negotiates with the companies, the companies will lower the prices because they really respect [him],” Mr. Chanthy said. “They can show their problems or difficulties to Samdech [Mr. Hun Sen] if they have them.”

Mr. Chanthy added, though, that legislation was still necessary to make any lasting impact on the fuel market.

“To have a long-term solution for a non-working free market like this, the country needs to have a legislative or legal framework…in order to straighten out the market so that it can get back on track,” he said.

Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Commerce Ministry, said the prime minister’s intervention was needed because the ministry’s previous efforts to convince firms to lower their prices had met limited success.

“When the prime minister [negotiates with them], a larger drop will be offered. It depends on the negotiator’s weight,” Mr. Thora said.

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