Chinese New Year in Yangon is celebrated with Dragon, Lion and Chinese Traditional Dance

10 -2 -2014 To 16- 2-2014

The shopper in Chi­nese town said, “this is the 9th times as yearly to celebrate the competition of lion dancing ability with the purpose of be alive with the audience in the Chinese new year. Now the participants for this competition are also increasing. This year, eight teams will be participated and get a lot more joyful for the audience.”

This lion dancing is held each road and with the cooperation of Chinese Buddha monasteries, the dragon dancing competi­tions, Chinese traditional songs and dancing are demonstrated in one of the monasteries.

The nun from the Chinese Buddha monas­tery in South Oakkalapa Township said, “In the new year, we celebrate with the New Year song and dance with the cooperation of interested people in huge monasteries and do a wish at the related people house with the New Year dance.”

The owners from the present and food shop said, “The new year day is more important than normal day so the food, candles, joss and the other memorable presents are the high demand for the devotional offering of god and grandparents so the traditional food of Ei Kwe is the essential for paying homage.”

Chinese New year is the time to pay respect to god, angels, parents and grandparents and doing the wishes.

“We held the new year festivals and other pay­ing respect activities. We planned to pay respect with various foods at monasteries and home. We grant the reward money (ann Pound) and treat with foods to the groups of dragon dancing, lion danc­ing who went to home and do a wish,” applied by Daw San San from Baham.

The Chinese New Year festival is held across the roads, houses, monaster­ies with Chinese traditional ceremonies and in shopping centers, a lot of people are participated with New Year shopping festivals and other enter­tainments.

REF:DAILY ELEVEN

Source :Traveller journal

Burma Designated 2014 ‘World Best Tourist Destination’ by EU Body

RANGOON — The European Council on Tourism and Trade will hand Burma the “World Best Tourist Destination Award” for 2014, one of the highest accolades in the global travel and tourism industry, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.

“This award will draw more tourists to our country,” Aung Zaw Win, director general of the ministry, told The Irrawaddy on Monday, adding that tourism was one of the country’s most promising industries at present.

The European Council on Tourism and Trade, which draws its members from 27 nations of the European Union, has been awarding the honor annually since 2007. Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (twice winner), South Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, and Laos are all past recipients of the World Best Tourist Destination Award, according to the ECTT website.

The award goes to “countries that are embracing tourism as a resource for cultural and social development, who respect ethics of human relations and preserve cultural and natural heritage. As the receivers, cities and countries must prove their commitment towards sustainable development, fair tourism and historical preservation,” the ECTT website states.

“All types of tourism are available in Myanmar,” Aung Zaw Win said. “We can offer marine tourism, cultural tourism, ecotourism, community tourism, trekking, other things and also snow-capped mountains.”

The director general said that having drawn 2.04 million tourists to Burma last year, the government is planning for 3 million foreign arrivals this year.

“The tourist numbers visiting Burma in 2013 increased by 93 percent over 2012. There is no comparably sharp rise anywhere in the world tourism industry,” he said, adding that the past two months had seen 487,000 tourist arrivals to Burma.

“The title should act as a booster for tourism” to the winner of the award, which must be a non-European country, the ECTT website says.

A letter sent by the European Union Council to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism said Burma would also be declared its 2014 “Favorite Cultural Destination,” according to Burma’s state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

“I hope that more tourists will visit our country with the presentation of the World Best Tourist Destination for 2014,” said Theingi, director of Exotic Myanmar Travels & Tours Company.

She added that more experienced guides, restaurants, hotels and airline linkages would be needed to accommodate what an expected boom in tourism over the coming years.

Aung Zaw Win of the Hotels and Tourism Ministry said that currently, there are more than 1,300 licensed tour companies in Burma, and more than 20 domestic and foreign airlines fly routes into Burma. Accommodation is increasing by about 6,000 hotel rooms each year, he added.

The country’s tourism industry is widely considered to be underdeveloped, and travel to Burma has been a politically sensitive issue for more than two decades. Long-time democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi for many years discouraged foreigners from visiting the country, saying their money would only go toward enriching the ruling military junta and its crony business allies who largely monopolized the industry.

With the country’s transition to nominally civilian rule in 2011, Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party has since signaled it “would welcome visitors who are keen to promote the welfare of the common people and the conservation of the environment and to acquire an insight into the cultural, political and social life of the country while enjoying a happy and fulfilling holiday in Burma.”

source: The Irrawaddy

Myanmar revises deadline for export log payments

Mar 11, 2014. /Lesprom Network/. Myanmar’s export shipments from 1 April 2013 to end January 2014 are estimated to have been 397,807 cubic metres of teak logs and 1,307,095 cubic metres of other hardwood logs. Total export shipments for the 2012-13 fiscal year were 494,650 cubic metres of teak logs and 1,561,540 cubic metres of other hardwood logs, as ITTO reported.

Though shipments this year are likely to exceed those of the previous year, analysts do not expect to see any significant change in export volumes. However, recently shipments from Yangon Port have increased.

It has been reported that the date for final payment for logs that are ready to be exported has been extended to 31 March 2014 rather than the previously announced date of 28 February 2014. However, overseas buyers are advised to ship all logs by midnight 31 March 2014.

Logs that are not shipped before the 1 April deadline will have to be processed in some way in Myanmar.

The date for final payment of these logs has been extended to 30 September 2014 instead of the previously announced 30 June 2014.

source: Lesprom

Pushing legal frontiers

The latest outpost in Myanmar of one of the largest international law firms was born out of a sense of adventure and despite being small in size, Baker & McKenzie has big plans, managing partner Christopher Hughes said.

“This is a country in transition and there is optimism that follows that,” Mr. Hugh’s told The Myanmar Times from the firm’s recently opened offices in Yangon.

“I don’t think there are too many places like [Myanmar] right now. From a lawyer’s point of view, there are very significant reform efforts going on,” he said.

Mr Hughes was made partner in the Sydney office three and a half years ago and began turning his mind to where his next venture would lie.

“Australia is a long way away from a lot of places,” he said. “One of the drivers for me doing law was to have international experience … I’d always wanted to spend more time living up here.

“The law reform agenda is ambitious and it is going to take a little while to completely fill in the regulatory framework. Lots of good primary legislation and detail and implementation of that will follow,” Mr Hughes said. “With an agenda of that size, obviously there is a bit of bandwidth issue. So much is happening and so much happening at once. The logic of the change is very good, but it will take a bit of time.”

The office currently has two foreign lawyers, including Mr Hughes, and five Myanmar lawyers who are focusing on the firm’s intellectual property practice and a commercial and corporate advisory practice mainly working for regional multinationals looking to enter the Myanmar market, he said.

“[The advisory work] is something we can do for our clients, explain the dynamics of what it’s like to work here,” he said. “Some of the doing business indexes and transparency indexes and so on have come out and shown Myanmar is moving in the right direction but it is also at the lower end of those indexes, so while the raw materials and opportunities here are great, the ease of doing business is still a little difficult and part of that is driven by unfamiliarity.

“People are naturally worried whenever they invest in new jurisdictions around compliance and doing business issues there,” he said, adding that navigating the legal framework and currently financial system of the country were often cause for pause among foreign investors.

“The reform agenda of the government, particularly in the area of improving and modernising the commercial laws that are going to drive investment here, is very positive,” he said, adding that he expected the volume of business to increase dramatically once important infrastructure and legislation was in place.

source: The Myanmar Times

MOL looks at Myanmar expansion

Tokyo: Japan’s Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) is eyeing more business beyond container shipping in Myanmar. Apart from future expansion on the containership businesses in Myanmar, MOL may expand in time its other businesses to cover bulkers, tankers and car carriers, the company said in a release.

MOL hosted an appreciation cocktail party for government leaders, customers, partners and MOL employees on March 5 at Park Royal Hotel, Yangon. It was well attended by 110 guests including Ichiro Maruyama, Minister-Counsellor/Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Japan, reaffirming MOL’s expansion plan in the containership business in Myanmar and its commitment in furthering the country’s economic development.

“It is my honour to visit Myanmar and I am deeply grateful to the Myanmar government, customers and partners for their continued support in MOL’s business development. Over the years, MOL has grown in tandem with Myanmar and we have long become one of the country’s closest partners,” said MOL president Koichi Muto. “As Myanmar continues to open up and expand, we see the country standing in front of a new world – a world of growing economic opportunities of trade/infrastructure development and regional strategic hub position for maritime transportation. MOL is pleased to work together with the country to seize the growth opportunities by further expanding our containership businesses in time.”

MOL’s presence in Myanmar dates back to 1898 when the first cargo ship Hikosan Maru called at the Port of Yangon. Since March 2012, a direct service linking Singapore and Yangon has been established. In October 2012, MOL established MOL Myanmar Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of MOL.

source: SeaShip News

EU and Myanmar get set to ink new int’l arbitration agreement

Negotiations have begun for an EU investor protection agreement with Myanmar that would imbed international arbitration as the preferential dispute mechanism, although observers said such a clause could ultimately be detrimental for the country.

The EU Commission and the Myanmar Ministry of Finance began negotiations for the agreement last week – a move that would encourage European investor confidence in new Myanmar markets, EU Ambassador Roland Kobia said.

“By creating legal certainty and predictability for companies, investment protection will help to attract and maintain FDI to underpin Myanmar’s economy. We hope that this bilateral agreement will be swiftly concluded,” Mr Kobia said in an email to The Myanmar Times.

“The main reason for having an ISDS [investor-state dispute settlement] mechanism is because in many countries international agreements are not directly enforceable in domestic courts and therefore an investor cannot find relief in domestic court,” Mr Kobia said.

Investor-state dispute settlements allow a private corporation to sue a state in international arbitration in the event of a trade agreement breach. The mechanism is often a trade pre-requisite for multinationals investing in foreign jurisdictions.

Negotiations for the investor protection agreement come on the back of the EU including Myanmar on its General System of Preferences last year.

“The country’s current investment framework leaves some questions unanswered with respect to investor protection,” Mr Kobia said. “In addition, some events under previous governments of Myanmar (nationalisations, etc) have had a profound negative impact on European companies.”

Myanmar has already signed seven such agreements with its Asian neighbours and acceded to the New York Convention on international arbitration in 2013, said U Aung Naing Oo, adding that the government would continue enacting investor protection agreements that allowed international arbitration.

Pietje Vervest, a fellow at the New York and Netherlands-based social justice NGO Transnational Institute, said the language of such treaties is typically very broad, allowing investors the right to sue the government over any and all policy that will be deemed to hurt their profits.

“[International arbiters] are usually just a group of three people deciding what’s in the public interest,” she said, adding the proceedings effectively gave a “blank check” to big business.

Ms Vervest pointed to the ongoing case of Uruguay vs Philip Morris Tobacco, where the cigarette manufacturing giant launched international arbitration proceedings against the South American country’s government over legislation requiring larger health warnings on tobacco products.

Likewise, Swedish energy multinational Vattenfall took the German government to international arbitration in 2009 over stricter environmental restrictions on coal powered plants. Both lawsuits were made possible under bilateral trade agreements.

“Even if the nations win in these disputes, they still lose,” said Ms Vervest, pointing out that arbitration battles often require millions from the public budget.

According to World Bank data, the average cost of an international arbitration suit is US$8 million, while the total number of cases have increased 35pc since the global financial crisis hit world markets in 2008.

Baker & McKenzie managing partner Christopher Hughes agreed investor-state disputes could be resource intensive and potentially divert much-needed government resources.

“However, on balance, given the confidence that foreign investors will gain from the availability of investor-state dispute mechanism and the lowering political and regulation change risks in investing in emerging markets, we think that the benefits to Myanmar outweigh the potential disadvantages associated with such treaties,” Mr Hughes said by email, adding that such arbitration was usually only a “last resort” for private players.

“Hence, we do not expect to see a flurry of such disputes,” said Mr Hughes.

source: The Myanmar Times

Burma seeks minimum wage amidst labour shortage

As foreign investors in the garment sector trickle into Myanmar/Burma, local research companies and the International Labour Organization (ILO) are undertaking a study that could prompt the country’s parliament to pass a minimum wage law by December this year.

The study, for which one local participant is the Myanmar Marketing and Research Development Co (MMRD), will look at how local factories are struggling to cope with a labour shortage, partly attributed to low available salaries.

Dr U Aung Win, vice-chairperson of the Myanmar Garments Manufacturers Association, described the current labour shortage as a “big problem.”

“Foreign investors are recruiting garment workers from locally owned factories by paying them higher salaries. This saves them from having to train workers, but it means that local factory owners must train new workers every month – or sometimes every day,” he told just-style.

He added a significant number of mainland Chinese and Hong Kong-owned factories have opened recently in the country.

Dr Aung Win expressed concern about demands made by garment sector trade unions across Myanmar – which currently number around 40 – claiming they are impractical.

“Unions are demanding that workers be paid US$5 a day, or about US$150 a month, and US$200 including overtime. There are so many jobless graduates who can speak some English yet can’t even find a salary of US$80 a month. These demands are simply unrealistic,” he added.

He said the average skilled worker at a garment factory earns approximately US$110 a month, at present, with a maximum salary of US$150 counting overtime. Meanwhile, an “unskilled helper” earns US$70.

The association has met with union representatives and factory owners for “constructive engagement” and he added: “We’ll continue to meet and hope that workers will begin to understand the practical limitations on wages.”

Minimum wages could differ by sector and geographical region, suggested Dr Aung Win, with the commercial capital of Yangon commanding the highest rates. “Investors are already setting up factories 20 miles outside Yangon because it’s cheaper,” he said.

Encourage foreign investment

Nyan Lynn Aung, director of the advisory firm FiNE9, which connects foreign and domestic investors in Myanmar, and most often in the garment sector, said that establishing a minimum wage will encourage foreign investment.

“Investors will know what they are getting in for – but it’s important to remember that a minimum wage will only be a minimum. Foreign owners are generally wealthier than their local counterparts and can pay more if demand for labour outstrips supply.”

Peter Witton, director of Anthem Asia, an independent investment and advisory group promoting sustainable business in Myanmar and other frontier markets across Asia, told just-style: “An officially-sanctioned minimum wage sends a signal about expectations…However, wages are just one issue in Myanmar at this time.”

He explained that local garment workers lack skills and experience, which can compound the chronic labour shortages. “Garment factories need to train staff, and smart ones will pay a decent wage to keep hold of the people they have invested time and money in training.”

However, he added that a minimum wage alone cannot solve current labour problems.

“If a [garment worker] gets the same [salary] wherever they work, then the employer who provides the best environment and benefits will be the preferred place to work.”

source: Just-Style

President remarks on reduced punishment for Anti-Money Laundering Bill

NAY PYI TAW—President Thein Sein returned the Anti-Money Laundering Bill to the Union parliament on Monday (March 10) with remarks on the reduction of punishment for the bill, according to parliamentary sources.

The president said that prison terms for money laundering offences should be reduced from three years to one year under the existing law. When a conviction has been reached for such offences, the punishment should be at least one year and above under domestic law. The amendment should be consistent with international norms.

The findings of the joint bill committee pointed out that the remarks of the president were intended to be consistent with internationally prescribed anti-money laundering laws and suggested that the bill should be amended.

Section 40 of the bill says that the Customs Department has the right to arrest in accordance with Section 39 if offences are found with respect to failure to declare earnings, concealment, money laundering, or suspicious related cases involving money and transferrable instruments or valuables.

Regarding enquiry and investigation into properties, the provisions prescribed in the marine custom act can be practiced, if necessary. The joint bill committee agreed with the remarks of the president, saying that his revisions suggested that the bill could be perfected.

source: Eleven Myanmar

Myanmar Rice Exports to China Decline Sharply Due to Falling Prices, Currency Fluctuations

Myanmar rice exporters have reduced rice exports to China by around 29% over the past one month due to falling prices and the appreciating kyat against both the U.S. dollar and the Chinese yuan, according to local sources.

China accounts to about 60% of unprocessed Myanmar rice exports. Myanmar usually exports about 3,500 tons daily to China, but is now exporting only 2,500 tons. Both the U.S. dollar and the Chinese yuan have declined against the Myanmar kyat since February 2014. According to sources, the USD depreciated by about 1.5% from K981 in February to K962 on March 10, 2014. Similarly, the yuan depreciated by about 2.5% from K161 in February to K157 on March 10, 2014.

Myanmar rice exporters claim that they are receiving 15-21% less revenue on export deals to China. Export prices of 25% broken rice have declined to $320 – $330 per ton from $404 a month ago, while export prices of 5% broken rice have dropped to $405-$415 per ton from $446. Exporters are also concerned that export prices may further decline as harvest of the second crop begins in many countries now, and also due to release of rice from government stockpile in Thailand.

Myanmar rice exporters say that exports are hurt due to high transactional toll and unstable prices offered by the Chinese importers as well. Local sources say that Myanmar rice exporters have reduced rice exports to China and are looking for other profitable destinations. The Myanmar Rice Federation (MRF) has reportedly finalized a deal with African countries Ivory Coast and Togo to export 100,000 tons of rice this month.

While the Myanmar government has set an export target of 3 million tons for the 2013-14 fiscal year, rice exports during the fiscal year are likely to reach only 1.1 million tons, down 47% from 2.1 million tons exported in 2012-13 fiscal, according to the Minister of Commerce. However, the USDA estimates Myanmar’s rice exports in 2013-14 to be stable at the last year’s level of 750,000 tons. The country’s milled rice production is estimated at 11 million tons against a consumption of 10.25 million tons in 2013-14.

The government is in the process of finalizing a comprehensive rice policy including trade restrictions, taxes, export allowances and insurance policies.
source: Oryza

Myanmar bookshop among the selection by IPA

The Myanmar publishing house Our Literature has been shortlisted for the Freedom to Publish award given annually by the International Publishers Association (IPA).

The IPA Freedom to Publish Prize is aimed at highlighting and celebrating the courage and tenacity of publishers around world. This year’s nominees are publishing houses from Belarus, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkey, Vietnam and Myanmar.

“As far as I know, the reason the IPA has selected Our Literature is we had published Tar Tay, the Saturday Born Son, by our late PM U Nu, San Chaung, Insein to Harvard by Ma Thida (San Chaung), and the book A Stone Inscription is Impossible to Erase,” said Myay Hmon Lwin of Our Literature publishing house.

“Our country was banned from international society in the past, although the international media never left us and always kept an eye on us. As a Myanmar publisher, I’m very happy and very encouraged that my publishing house is among the finalists for the Freedom to Publish award.”

The award will be presented at the London Book Fair on April 8.

The International Publishers Association (IPA) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization founded in 1896 in Paris. Its role is to promote and protect the publishing industry and to raise awareness about publishing in the context of economic, cultural and political development.

source: Eleven Myanmar