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

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

A shop owner bolsters my appreciation of Cambodians

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This sleek all-in-one is not mine.

My printer mystified me.

Purchased here in Cambodia, the HP all-in-one device is three years old.  It worked fine until a couple of months ago, when it refused to print the information inside a form.

I tried everything, so I thought.  I changed online documents to PDFs, JPGs, Excel and Word, all to no avail.

Finally, it dawned on me that Continue reading

Cambodia hardly is a hotbed of the visual arts, but. . .

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Cambodia’s minister of culture and fine arts, Phoeurng Sackona, spoke warmly about the artist Sopheap Pich, standing at her left, in front of the sculpture called Big Being.

No one would describe Cambodia as a vital center of the visual arts in Southeast Asia.

While there are art schools and art exhibitions, the output does not tend to be memorable. (When it comes the visual arts, I find photography to be the most accomplished.)

One reason must be  Continue reading