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Foreigner Property Law Debated

The National Assembly Thursday began discussing a new law that allows foreigners for the first time to own apartments and other residential property—above the ground floor.

Officials say they hope the law will draw more foreign investment, but opposition lawmakers Thursday said the law needed clarifying.

“We are very worried on some points in the draft law affecting our national sovereignty and interest,” Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay said.

One section in the law seems to allow foreigners property rights within 30 kilometers of the national border, he said, but the same article allows for buildings in special economic zones and other areas while giving the government the opportunity to grant foreign rights.

“This is a point that stirs up doubt and worry,” he said.

The Council of Ministers drafted the law in December, in a move to improve private ownership right, increase investment and make doing business in Cambodia easier. It allows for the ownership of apartments from the second story and a larger stake in residential property for foreigners.

“Our real estate market will have more progress after the law comes out,” Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yiep said. “This law is very important to encourage foreigners to invest and to fulfill their duties as investors.”

Land Minister Im Chhun Lim told lawmakers Thursday the law would “boost economic growth” and provide employment in construction. With a better property market, Cambodians will learn more technical skills, he said.

Sung Bonna, head of the National Valuers Association and owner of his own real estate group, said realtors had been waiting for the law “for a long time.”

“In this law there are mostly no negative points,” he said.

The law could invigorate the real estate market, which has languished in recent years, he said.

“This law cannot make higher prices for real estate or land,” he said. “It will just recover the activities of buying and selling, because it provides confidence to investors.”