Week 3 in Cambodia

Ok, so with another week in Cambodia gone, I am officially half way through my work at BNG Legal. In addition to continuing legal research on emerging industries and markets, we were assigned a new project this week. Our assignment is to provide a summary of the 2007 Cambodian Law on Concessions and analyze how this legislation relates to the 2001 Cambodian Land Law and related evictions.

As the Cambodian economy continues to develop, the government has been actively promoting foreign investment in industrial infrastructure through concession agreements.  In these agreements, the government offers companies a long term lease for a unique purpose, such as telecommunications or railroads. The government is able to collect royalties on the concession’s profits for the term of the lease. At the end of the lease, the infrastructure and added value of the land reverts back to the government.  Many concession projects require specific tracts of land, not all of which are vacant. In order to provide the necessary lands, the government may effectively take back the land. In certain circumstances, the procedures behind the takings are clearly drawn. In others, however, complications from recreating the Cambodian property system from scratch in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge have produced confusion and given rise to various land disputes. Recent media coverage suggests that many of these disputes disproportionately affect the lower socio-economic classes of Cambodian society.

Through our analysis, we aim to provide recommendations for a standard governmental operating procedure to be utilized when taking back lands and in handling disputes. Our study will be incorporated into a report provided by BNG Legal in cooperation with another enterprise working on the business and economic aspects of the same issue. The report is intended to advise competent authorities within the Cambodian government on how to address land disputes when granting land concessions.

Outside of work, there was plenty to do and not enough time for sleep as always. I spent Monday evening at Nerd Night, which is a local ex-pat group that meets every other week and hosts presentations. Speakers can present on anything they would like. This past week’s lecture series ranged from introducing a local NGO that brings school books to children in the rural provinces to global warming, and everything in between. I actually ran into a friend of a friend while there, a fellow WM alumnus! I witnessed first-hand the closeness of the ex-pat community when, although I went to the event alone, my table grew and grew with great acquaintances I had met at various programs throughout the city. Our table of 15+ enjoyed great conversation until we closed the bar. Tuesday, I had my first Khmer lesson. I’ve learned just enough to let people think I may actually speak Khmer until they ask me a question (which I don’t understand unless I’ve learned the exact phrase) and I stare back blankly. After the lesson, I went out for our weekly trivia. With a small group of 3, we did surprisingly well, but didn’t garner first prize. I’m sure this coming week will be even better! Wednesday, Vlada and I went to a local Khmer movie debut. The short film combined educational instruction on proper rice cultivation techniques with a cute story line about a boy trying to win his crush’s hand in marriage. The movie is intended to expand rural farming knowledge and to dispel any superstitions about using chemical fertilizers. A friend that I met at the Nerd Night on Monday had worked on the film and was there as well! He was able to show us around a bit and we were able to meet some of the film’s cast! On Thursday, I went to a tailor to be fitted for a few suits that I am having made here. They are lovely! Friday morning, we moved into a new apartment. Things didn’t go as smoothly as we would have liked. In addition to not taking credit card, the guest house we had been staying at also refused to take our $100 bill because it was from before 2006 and they were afraid of fake currency. To top it off, Ena got her foot run over by our tuktuk drive! Friday afternoon, Vlada, Ena, a new friend from Spain, Nerea, and I got into a taxis for our weekend excursion to Koh Kong. We met up with six others and spent the weekend trekking through the jungle (fighting off leeches the whole way- don’t worry I only have 5 bites, but I am the only one who got leeches on my stomach and back-), exploring a waterfall, swimming in a river, picnicking, 4-wheeling in the back of a pick up through the countryside, and BBQing in the jungle with palm leaves as plates.

All in all, another great week the Kingdom!