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spot_icon_23-02-10Cambodia is planning to join the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks by 2015, according to the relevant authorities. The Madrid System greatly simplifies the process for trademark owners to register their rights in multiple countries at a time.

To register one’s trademark in countries outside the Madrid System, as Cambodia currently is, you have to make a separate application with the national authority (in Cambodia that is the Department of Intellectual Property within the Ministry of Commerce). Once Cambodia joins the Madrid System, it will be much easier, quicker, and cheaper for Cambodians to protect their trademarks abroad, and for foreigners to protect theirs in Cambodia. This would be a good development for intellectual property in Cambodia.

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The Cambodian government seems to have had enough of false information on the internet.  It is drafting a law that will make it illegal to lie on the internet.  The Phnom Penh Post reports that the “cyber law” will “prevent  “ill-willed groups or individuals’ from spreading false information” (Story here).  Much of the details about the law are still unclear.

Does a writer need to know the information is false?  Does he have to intend to cause harm through the false information?  Also, the consequences of a violation are unknown- are we talking fines or jail time?  It’s curious that the Cambodian government would be considering such a law now since neighboring Thailand has had problems with speech issues recently with the “Uncle SMS” scandal.  (Story here).  There, a man was not fined, but put in jail for allegedly sending an insulting text message about the Thai king.  The man claimed he didn’t even know how to text, and has since died in prison.

False speech is a problem that every government will need to address at some point or another.  Just recently, the United States Supreme Court heard a case about a man who was fined for lying about receiving the Medal of Honor, the country’s highest military medal, when he had never even been in the military.  (story here).  The court needs to decide whether the Constitution allows for such blatant lies.  Apparently, no one in the room even believed the man.

It will be interesting to see how the Cambodian government deals with this difficult issue.  We will just have to wait to see what this cyber-law actually looks like.

Today’s Cambodia Daily (offline only, see Gov’t to Stop Licensing New Mobile Carriers) reports that the Ministry of Post & Telecommunication will no longer issue mobile phone operator licenses. It’s generally recognized that the Cambodian cell phone market is oversaturated, with too many operators vying for too few customers, resulting in losses or razor-thin margins at best. Further, there’s very little spectrum, if any, that has not yet been allocated; and, in fact, there have been instances of overlapping licenses issued for the same spectrum. While there has been substantial talk recently about consolidation, no announcements have been made.

The Daily article simply quotes the Minister as saying that no  further licenses will be issued. It is unclear whether there has been, or will be, a regulation or circular issued on point, nor whether the moratorium is indefinite or set to expire by a certain date.

Today’s Cambodia Daily (print only) reports that beginning May 1, car and truck drivers will no longer be fined on the spot, instead the officer will issue a ticket, to be paid later (see “On-The-Spot Fines for Car, Truck Drivers to End”, April 26 2012). As it is now, drivers who are stopped for traffic violations are issued a ticket and pay the fine at the side of the road. From next week on, you’ll have to go to the local public order police department or traffic office. It’s unclear whether the policy will eventually apply to motorbikes.

In principal, this new rule should reduce the potential for abuse, as drivers should not have to take their wallets out on the side of the road. If the procedures for paying at the police or traffic offices are well established and the lines aren’t too long, this should be a change for the better. If, however, it’s a real hassle to settle the fine properly, then there’s more incentive for abuse.

Today’s Cambodia Daily (print only) reports that the government is finalizing a draft law on price dumping.

“Dumping” is a form of predatory pricing, where foreign exporters sell products below costs into a country, aiming to drive domestic producers out of business. Once the domestic competition has gone under, the dumpers can jack up prices and recoup their losses. In the end, domestic production is hurt, and the country is reliant on more expensive foreign imports.

Anti-dumping laws, like the draft under consideration, allow governments to temporarily raise tariffs or restrict imports to counteract the dumpers. While dumping can do serious harm, in many countries there’s a strong tendency for domestic producers to accuse foreign competitors of dumping, when in reality they’re being undercut simply because the foreign producers are more efficient.

According to the draft, a new committee will be setup to investigate dumping claims and take countervailing measures. The article indicates the drafters hope to send it to the Council of Ministers by the end of the year.

 

Over the past several years, Cambodia has passed a number of fundamental laws, perhaps none more so than the Civil Code of 2007. The code’s 1,305 articles deal with a broad range of issues – from contracts, to marriage, to real estate and torts. Many years in the making, the code unifies and revises a great number of earlier laws and regulations. While there’s no way to summarize all the provisions, the titles of the code’s books give an idea of what is covered:

  • Book I: General Rules
  • Book II: Persons
  • Book III: Real Rights
  • Book IV: Obligations
  • Book V: Particular Type of Contracts/Torts
  • Book VI: Security
  • Book VII: Relatives
  • Book VIII: Succession
  • Book IX: Final Provision

Though the code was promulgated in 2007, it didn’t come into effect until late last year. It’s important to note the 2011 “Promulgation on the Law of Implementation of the Civil Code” amends and supplements a number of the Civil Code articles. Also, a number of articles from prior laws and regulations survive and are still in effect, and must be read in conjunction with the new code. In the coming months, we’ll be taking a closer look at the most significant parts of this important new law.

Might foreigners one day be able to buy land outright in Cambodia? As we’ve blogged about before, foreigners can only buy units in co-owned buildings above the first floor. The land itself is off limits. Might that be about to change?

Prime Minister Hun Sen, as reported in today’s Cambodia Daily (print only), said the following in a public speech:

“We have a law allowing foreigners to buy apartments from the second story up, but we need a solution, because what they build on [Marakot Island, a new development near Sihanoukhville] are not multistory buildings but villas.”

The article also reports that the Council for the Development of Cambodia and the relevant ministries will take up the issue. It’s obviously too soon to say what will come of this proposal, though the Prime Minister’s statements are certainly a good sign.

UPDATE II [March 21, 2012]: The April 2012 goal has been pushed back again. According to a US government source, petitions won’t be accepted until January 1, 2013.

UPDATE [May, 5, 2011]: As expected, the Government has postponed until April 2012 the acceptance of foreign adoption applications.

An article in today’s Daily reports on the unlikelihood of the 2009 inter-country adoption law being fully implemented next month as originally indicated. Although the government plans to start accepting inter-country adoption applications next month, the law requires that before this can take place, the Inter Country Adoption Administration in Cambodia must conclude agreements with its foreign counterparts.

To date, no such agreements have been concluded. Many foreign governments may be waiting to see how successful the implementation will be. At least one government has indicated it is reluctant to initiate such an agreement until the registration procedure for adoption agencies has been clarified.

The law currently calls for adoption agencies to “apply for authorization and approval by and recognition of” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but no further information is available on how to instigate this application process. Approval may be automatic if the agency has recognized NGO status from the Ministry, but NGO status requires an address (including lease agreement) within Cambodia, both for the NGO office and for foreign and local staff.

This would require an agency to commit to a presence for NGO purposes in Cambodia well in advance of any certainty as to their chances of successfully applying for registration as an adoption agency. Until this issue is ironed out, the situation remains in a catch-22.

The Foreign Ministry recently placed financial and age restrictions on foreign men marrying Cambodian women. According to a diplomatic note sent to foreign embassies, only men making more than $2,550 a month and younger than 50 years old can marry Cambodian women.

Leaving aside the substantive policy questions (why prohibit two 60-year-olds from marrying? or a man with a wealth of assets but little income?), today’s Cambodia Daily reports on possible procedural problems with how this rule has been enacted. The Marriage Law does not spell out any such restrictions, so the question is whether the Foreign Ministry can amend the law through a diplomatic note.

This latest measure is part of ongoing efforts to address abusive practices by some foreign marriage agencies, I don’t suspect we’ve seen the last of this matter. Stay tuned.

On Monday 28 February, the Ministry of Economy and Finance confirmed that the valuation system for the controversial property tax will be implemented by the end of March.

Taxpayers will have to register under the valuation system before the 30 September. But the legislation is still not clear on who is subject to the tax. The definition of taxpayer includes owners, occupiers and financial beneficiaries. How can a lessee avoid being liable for a tax the lessor has registered them for?

The law also causes problems for prospective purchasers of immoveable property who may find themselves liable for a year’s worth of tax on a property that they have only owned for a month. What systems are in place to prevent double taxation upon transfers of title?

As is usually the case there should be more clarity once the new tax starts to be implemented by the tax office.

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The work of a handful of attorneys at BNG Legal, this blog's mission is to keep the world up-to-date on legal issues in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

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