Cambodia approved a securities law in September to prepare the country for a stock market in 2009. The stock market will be managed by the Finance Ministry in cooperation with the South Korean stock market and is expected to open its trading in 2009. But critics say Cambodia's laws are too weak to instill the kind of confidence a stock market requires.
Opposition party lawmaker Son Chhay told VOA Khmer recently he worried that the government is moving too fast.
"We need at least three to five years to make sure we have capable people or else we will have bogus companies that will take investors' money and run," he said.
Finance Minister Keat Chhon has said his ministry is evaluation about 400 companies, foreign and local. He said foreign and local companies have equal rights in participating in the stock market.
Cheam Yeap, a lawmaker from the ruling Cambodian People's Party. He said the securities law has strict rules and punishment for those who violate it.
"Article 9 makes it clear that anyone who sells stocks illegally will be punished from 1 million to 1 billion riel and a jail term from 1 to 20 years," he said.
Critics say Cambodia cannot yet rely on its laws to stabilize a securities market.
"For a stock market to succeed, there must be strict laws governing the market, and an independent court must be in place," Tith Naranhkiri, a former professor of economics and international finance at Johns Hopkins University in the US, told VOA Khmer. "In Cambodia, corruption is rampant, so a clean agency in charge of monitoring and investigating the companies registering in the stock markets is not feasible."
But supporters say a stock market will never work if they never try.
"Prime Minister Hun Sen has always advised us that a 1,000-mile journey cannot be completed unless the first step is taken. And that first step needs to be bold in order to finish the journey," said CPP lawmaker Chea Peng Chheang. "So, I do not worry that much. It is important that we have so-called on-the-job training to make the introduction of the stock market a success. If something happens along the way, we just need to fix it, and continue the journey."kong soth