It’s unclear what reform Prime Minister Hun Manet announced – or whether there was an announcement at all. He’s adamant on what hasn’t happened: his government isn’t about to start selling land to foreigners. But it sounds a lot like that’s exactly what is happening.
As things stand, the Constitution doesn’t allow non-Cambodian nationals to own land or ground-floor property. Foreigners can buy condominium apartments as long as less than 70 percent of the units aren’t foreign-owned, and many do actually “own” land by putting it in the name of a trusted Cambodian but then signing a side contract that guarantees them rights to re-sale and possession. There are Cambodians who own dozens of properties on behalf of foreigners. It pays to be trustworthy. Or foreigners can purchase land or property through a trust, again using a Cambodian as a frontman and, while the trust formally owns the property, it cannot be sold without the permission of the foreign investor.
But speaking after the Government-Private Sector Forum earlier this month, Hun Manet noted that foreigners can also lease land or ground-floor villas and houses for up to 50 years. “This long-term leasing mechanism is a strategic move by the government, designed for stability and growth, eliminating the need for constitutional amendments,” Hun Manet reportedly said, insinuating that it’s a new policy.