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The Associated Press April 5, 2010, 6:34AM ET

Cambodian law to let foreigners buy real estate

Foreigners will be able to buy real estate in Cambodia -- as long as it's above the ground floor -- under a proposed law that cleared the lower house of parliament Monday.

Cambodia's National Assembly approved the long-awaited Foreign Ownership Property Law after a three-day debate by a vote of 85 to 11. It needs to pass the Senate and King Norodom Sihamoni before becoming law, both of which are considered technicalities.

Until now, foreigners could not own land or property in the impoverished Southeast Asian country, though many skirted the law by teaming up with Cambodian buyers.

The proposed law gives foreigners the right to buy real estate at least one floor above the land, in keeping with the ban on foreign land ownership.

The law also states that foreigners would not be able to buy property within 20 miles (30 kilometers) of Cambodian borders, a constraint intended to protect national sovereignty.

Im Chhun Lim, Minister of Land Management, told lawmakers that the adoption of the law would help attract foreign buyers and strengthen Cambodia's economy.

"This law will promote the investment sector by encouraging the construction of luxury, high-rises," he said.

Cambodia's economy relies mainly on the agriculture and tourism sectors, but foreign investors have helped the economy's rapid growth.

China is a leading foreign investor in Cambodia, with some 349 Chinese companies invested in Cambodia mainly in agriculture projects, construction and dams, according to the Chinese Embassy.

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