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Gov’t backtracks on ban on self-employed foreigners

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Chinese-owned businesses in Chamkar Morn district’s Tonle Bassac commune. Hean Rangsey

Gov’t backtracks on ban on self-employed foreigners

Foreigners will again be allowed to be self-employed in a bid to attract skills and investment to the Kingdom, after a ban on them running small businesses that could affect the livelihoods of Cambodians was proposed in August.

An announcement by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training obtained by The Post on Sunday said foreigners will be allowed to be self-employed as Cambodia needed technical skills in the service sector and to attract investment.

Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached for comment. Government spokesman Phay Siphan declined to comment on Sunday.

Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA) president Vorn Pov said he was disappointed with the decision to allow foreigners to run small businesses despite it being a way to attract foreign investment to Cambodia.

He said he supported ideas to attract and motivate foreigners to invest in major businesses or companies in Cambodia.

However, he does not welcome foreigners who run small businesses such as selling snacks, selling porridge and bread, running taxi and vehicle repair services or other jobs in the informal economy, Pov said.

“We support having large foreign companies and garment factories investing in Cambodia. We certainly approve of attracting skills.

“But we do not welcome foreigners working as food vendors, drivers or in vehicle repairs, offering massage services or selling souvenirs because Cambodians can do all these jobs.

“We urge the government to take this into consideration because this decision could affect the livelihoods of Cambodians running such small businesses,” Pov said.

The exact number of foreigners working in the informal economic sector is unknown. However, Pov said the majority of foreigners ran businesses in the informal economy in Phnom Penh, Bavet town in Svay Rieng province and Poipet town in Banteay Meanchey, as well as Preah Sihanouk province.

On August 28, the ministry released an announcement about the ban on jobs and work for foreigners in Cambodia.

Article two of the announcement said foreigners should be banned from jobs and business works such as drivers, massage service providers, hairdressers, tailors, bicycle repairers, and other small businesses.

“The ministry will not provide validity to foreigners who are working or running a business in the fields mentioned in Article two of the announcement. Those who act on the contrary will be fined or punished in accordance with the Labour Law,” said the announcement.

According to the announcement, a self-employed person refers to any individual who works or runs his own business for profit instead of earning wages or salary from employers.

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