Reason foreigners cannot own ground floor: Naïveté

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Visitors evinced keen interest in new developments at the Cambodia Real Estate Show.

Foreigners in Cambodia are barred from owning the ground floor of any building in the Kingdom of Wonder.

I finally found out the origins of the prohibition early this month when I attended one of 16 presentations at the Cambodia Real Estate Show, a well organized two-day event that attracted numerous potential developers along with buyers of luxury apartments and buildings.  (Hey, you can take the broker out of real estate, but you can’t take real estate. . .)

It was not until 1989 and then in 2001 that government decrees defined the possession and subsequently, in 2001, full ownership rights of residential property.

Like most other countries in the region, Cambodia does not want foreigners to own a piece of the nation, no matter how small, as codified in Article 8 of the Land Law.

According to presenter Matthew Rendall — a lawyer who holds a Cambodian passport and is managing partner at SokSiphana & Associates in Phnom Penh — the stricture resulted from Continue reading

Fight-dance group with unpronounceable name dazzles

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If like me you never have heard of Abadá-Capoeira, which is Brazilian martial arts, you are missing something special.  On a whim, I was lucky enough to catch a free performance featuring half a dozen of its athletes at the French Institute last weekend, and the event was enthralling.

While the activity clearly is a sport, it is one more like a performance absent any contact, except by mistake.  Abadá-Capoeira manages to combine the thrusts that remind me of jiu jitsu with the grace of dance.

With a name that I have no clue how to pronounce, the activity has its origins in Continue reading

Moral dilemma inescapable if investing in microfinance

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An ATM owned by Prasac Microfinance Institution in use at a branch in Cambodia’s Kampong Speu province.  Source: Phnom Penh Post

Imagine that you could earn 4.75% interest for a term deposit of only one month.  Might you prefer a one-year term?  That would get you 9.75% per annum, and shorter or longer terms also are available at commensurate rates.

Do those rates sound too good to be true?  They are not.

With such returns offered by Prasac, one of Cambodia’s leading microfinance institutions (MFIs), the wise investor can Continue reading

An expat’s perspective on health care and immigration

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BNH, the hospital in central Bangkok where I have received annual check-ups.

Technically, I am not an immigrant, though I make my home in Cambodia.  I have only a mailing address in the United States.

What I am is a retired expat whose year-to-year visa allows him to reside in Phnom Penh, where my savings go far indeed.  It is a good life, but it is one without a citizen’s rights (such as they are in Cambodia) and without dependable medical care.

Fortunately, I am an expat in excellent health now into his 70s.  Should I develop problems, the quality of my medical care here generally is suspect and its cost would be prohibitive for anything serious.

You see, I am uninsured outside the United States.  Even if coverage were obtainable from a reputable firm at my age Continue reading

Well yes, Q-tips are available in Cambodia, but. . .

thumb_IMG_0951_1024There’s a barber shop — okay hair salon — that is a 10-minute walk from my apartment.

A few months ago, I upgraded from my customary one, which closed and used to cost me $3, including tip, about once a month.

An acquaintance recommended Tokyo Barber Shop because he so enjoyed the shampoo and accompanying brief head, neck and shoulder massage.  After indulging myself in the process there and shelling out $7, including tips for the shampoo and haircut, I became a convert.

What you have to know is Continue reading

Longtime observer pessimistic about Cambodia reform

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To paraphrase the old Esquire magazine, why is Hun Sen laughing?  (Source: Phnom Penh Post)

“This is no country for decent and outspoken men.”

So begins Sebastian Strangio’s crystalline analysis of Cambodia’s political environment in the highly respected Mekong Review.  The one-and-a-half-year-old quarterly journal has given me permission to excerpt a substantial portion of the author’s astute perspective on the chasm between what might be desirable in the Kingdom of Wonder and what might be achievable.

Strangio — whose recent book on Cambodia under the 31-year rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen has received terrific reviews — draws a line between what ought to be the situation in the country versus what actually is the possibility of change.

You can read the full essay in the publication, and I suspect the excerpts below will peak your interest.
Continue reading

Bangkok building takes architecture to new heights

Meandering around central Bangkok recently, I kept seeing from different angles a startling building nearing completion.  It arrested me from every point of view, and it is as memorable to me as the Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

I looked up the nearly completed skyscraper online, and dezeen architecture and design magazine provided me with background that I have shamelessly extracted here in part.

At 314 meters, or 1,030 feet, the MahaNakhon tower was intended to be Continue reading