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Siem Reap the first test of new land management law

Siem Reap the first test of new land management law

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

Reap city.

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.

The Apsara

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.

The big

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

    controlled construction;

  • 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

construction site.

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.

Builders who

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



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