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Price of citizenship could rise

Price of citizenship could rise

Foreigners who want to obtain Cambodian citizenship, which is usually available for a price, may soon have to shell out more than ever if government plans to raise the bar go through.

Cambodia is one of a few dozen countries where foreigners can, in essence, buy citizenship – in the case of the Kingdom by investing at least 1.25 billion riel (about $312,000) in a government-approved project.

That figure was set in 1996, when the country’s nationality law was first adopted, but no longer reflects Cambodia’s economic growth, according to Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak.

“Now it has been more than 20 years,” he said. “The amount is not equal to the development of Cambodia.”

A 15-member working group created by Prime Minister Hun Sen last month is now studying how much the price should rise, according to Sopheak.

Over the past three years, 1,050 foreigners have obtained Khmer citizenship through investment, according to a report released by the ministry last month. The option is particularly popular among real estate investors from China and South Korea who wish to own land in the Kingdom.

Ngov Sok Hun, a legal associate at BNG Legal, said more and more foreigners are seeking Cambodian citizenship so that they can own land. She recommended raising the cost, as it would lead to larger investment overall, so long as the new amount was not exorbitant.

Thida Ann, the director of CBRE Cambodia, said most investors with qualifying projects are already investing far more than $300,000, so “it makes sense” to raise the amount. “Right now it’s small, so if they want to raise it, I support it,” she said.

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