National Land Management
I n May 1994, the National Assembly passed
a law that establishes a national framework for the development, administration
and implementation of land use policies and regulations in Cambodia.
law, called the "Law on Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction"
(referred to as "Land Management Law" or "Law" in this article) was the first in
a series of local and national laws and regulations dealing with land use
Since the promulgation of the Law, a number of other decrees,
sub-decrees and ministerial level regulations have been issued. This column will
focus on some of these in the near future. They include a decree on construction
permits and various regulations on the land management around Angkor
The most significant development in the area of land management and
use is the establishment by law of a special land management committee in Siem
This committee, appropriately called the "Apsara Committee",
has been given the authority to develop, implement and manage a comprehensive
preservation, conservation and land use plan for the development of the Siem
Reap area into Cambodia's premier tourist destination.
Committee has been operating on an informal basis ever since the relevant laws
were passed earlier this year.
However, our sources tell us that the
permanent director of the Apsara Committee will be chosen this month, and the
committee will be formalized shortly thereafter.
A more detailed zoning
plan and accompanying map has also been approved in principle by the Council of
Ministers, and should become law in the near future.
There has also been
much discussion about development of the Sihanoukville area into an industrial,
as well as tourist zone.
Teams are working on a comprehensive zoning plan
for that city which should be finalized in the near future.
question for Sihanoukville is how to harmonize the seemingly divergent use of
the area for heavy industry and trade on the one hand, and the "pristine
beach/secluded resort" tourism that would attract foreign dollars to the area on
the other. Not an easy task, but one that must be tackled if Cambodia is to
realize its full tourist potential.
The Land Management Law is intended
to lay the groundwork for a more detailed and localized land management
The stated purpose of the Land Management Law is to promote and
organize the development of urban and rural areas through the "harmonious
development of the country".
This development must be "in the spirit
- respecting public and individual interests, private property, the law, and
- assuring balanced development between urban and rural areas;
- enhancing the value of natural and cultural resources;
- improving tourist and economic development;
- maintaining the quality of the environment.
A National Land Management committee is to be formed to ensure that these
principles are followed.
The committee will be given the authority to
oversee the creation and operation of local provincial and town land management
Moreover, it will have the authority to establish special
rules applicable to special zones selected by the Council of Ministers that
merit special rules and considerations, such as the Siem Reap/Angkor Wat
Local Zoning committees are to be set up for each province and
These local committees will be headed by the governor of the
province or town, working within parameters defined by the National Land
Management Committee. Phnom Penh city will also have its own local Land
Management Committee, led by the National Committe, and composed of the Governor
of Phnom Penh and delegates from various other government agencies.
committee is required to develop a zoning map for their region. This map,
however, will be effective only when approved by the National
The Law also sets out procedures that the government and
builder must follow when archeologically significant objects are found on the
If an object of historical interest is discovered on a
construction site, the responsible person must immediately report the discovery
to the relevant local authorities.
The construction shall then be halted
temporarily until the situation can be assessed by experts.
provision obviously gives the builder an incentive to hide any archeological
discoveries in order to avoid a delay in the construction schedule. The only way
to counter this incentive would be to levy persuasively high penalties on those
who fail to report a discovery.
According to the Law, construction is
prohibited in the following areas or types of sites:
- Land reserved for reservoirs and dams;
- Land reserved for mining and forest zones;
- Archeological and historical sites;
- Public parks;
- Special Development zones;
- Land reserved for roads, railways and airports;
- Rivers, seas, canals, river banks, and coastal areas;
- Every site specifically forbidden by statute.
The special construction and use permits for activities on land in such zones
shall be set by sub-decree.
Other provisions of note in the Law
- Structures built on state land become state property once the terms of the
relevant contract expire;
- Construction is prohibited where there is inadequate infrastructure such as
water and electricity, in place to support the structure;
- Demolition permits are required before any building may be
- Any construction, renovation or change in the construction of a structure
must be approved by the competent authority;
- Archeological, historical and cultural sites, as identified by a sub-decree,
shall be protected.
The Law contains certain penalties for actions by officials is consistent
with the law. If any official refuses to examine a request for a building
permit, or refuses to issue the permit, or delays the issuance of the permit
beyond 45 days, without having adequate justification, the official shall be
punished according to law. Construction inspection officials who issue building
permits inconsistent with the law shall also be punished.
construct without permit or in violation of the permit issued will receive a
"Demolition Order" to destroy the building.
They will be required to
destroy the old building and begin construction on a new building that complies
with the building permit, within 30 days from the date of receipt of the order.
Officials may seize any materials on the site to enforce any court order.
- (David Doran is the managing director of the law firm Dirksen Flipse
Doran & Le. He has been writing about Cambodian legal issues since