Cambodia – Probe finds high-ranking officials involved in smuggling timber to Vietnam

Timber trucks driven by Vietnamese nationals that were seized in Mondulkiri province last month. The case prompted an investigation into possible collusion between authorities and illegal loggers.

An official investigation has found that more than a dozen police, military police and army officials allegedly colluded with Vietnamese timber smugglers to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in bribes, according to a letter from National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun.

Signed by Neth Savoeun on March 9 and addressed to Interior Minister Sar Kheng, and disseminated by pro-government media outlet Fresh News yesterday, the document details the investigation that followed the interception by authorities in February of a timber haul in Mondulkiri’s O’Raing district in which seven Vietnamese nationals were arrested.

What’s more, the document constitutes a rare admission by authorities of high-ranking officials’ apparent involvement in the cross-border timber trade, despite myriad accusations from observers and activists.

According to the letter, three officials – Tea Khaimeng, a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces officer responsible for border checkpoint ‘Kor 3’ in Keo Seima district; Em Songhour, an RCAF officer stationed at O’huch checkpoint; and Chum Rattanak, the National Police’s border police chief at O’huch – allegedly received a total of $170,000 from a Vietnamese trader named Uk Nhor.

The officials allegedly shared the bounty with several others, including $10,000 to Provincial Military Police Commander Sak Sarang, $6,000 to a Forestry Administration official named only as “Nak”, and $22,500 to the O’huch border police chief Leang Phearoth.

The letter pins Rattanak, Phearoth, Khaimeng, Songhour and the Vietnamese trader as the “masterminds of the collusion to log, collect and haul the [timber] to Vietnam”.

In all, 11 National Police officials are implicated by the letter, which requests the interior minister to authorise court charges against Rattanak and Phearoth. For the nine others, administrative disciplinary actions, such as reassignment or “education”, is recommended.

Interior Ministry and National Police spokesmen contacted yesterday were unavailable or declined to comment. Jurisdiction for officials involved who are not in the National Police force falls outside of the Savoeun’s purview.

Military police spokesman Eng Hy and RCAF Border Regiment 103 Commander Yin Chathy, the superior of some of those implicated, said investigations are ongoing.

According to Hy, “officials from different institutions are looking into it”. Vong Sokserey, the provincial Forestry Administration director, claimed ignorance of the allegations and declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Sak Sarang, the Mondulkiri provincial military police commander accused of taking $10,000 in bribes, denied the allegation or having any connection to any of the other officials named.

“I have never met those people. In short, I do not know them. I have never even seen their faces,” he said, before hanging up on a reporter. Among those implicated are Sarang’s older brother and Keo Seima District Military Police Commander Sak Sarun.

Preap Kol, the director of Transparency International Cambodia, noted that the Anti-Corruption Unit should be involved in further investigations, adding that the corruption apparent in the letter suggests the “indicated briberies are a tip of the iceberg if compared to the records of timber trade by the Vietnamese authorities”.

According to a report on Vietnamese customs data published last year, the combined value of timber legally imported by Vietnam from Cambodia rose from $45.7 million in 2013 to $379 million in 2015.

This latest crackdown on allegedly corrupt officials falls under a broader effort by the anti-logging commission created last year on the orders of prime minister Hun Sen.

The task force claimed in April to have put an end to logging in the eastern provinces, though when Post reporters investigated in June, they found rampant logging, collusion by authorities and witnessed bribery at border checkpoints.

Sok Rotha, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the group will insist that the officials named see their day in court.

“If there is no action against the perpetrators, it will create more impunity.”

Source – PhnomPehnPost

Cambodia – Gov’t gets heat for ivory decision

Officers from Cambodian customs display some of the 1.3 tonnes of African elephant tusks seized from containers shipped from Mozambique to Phnom Penh last year. Wildlife Alliance

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday endorsed a Ministry of Environment recommendation to keep the ivory for “scientific research” and exhibitions.

Environment Minister Say Samal yesterday said there were recent requests from the NGO Wildlife Alliance, USAID and the US Embassy to burn the ivory, but he rejected them.

“We don’t believe in burning [it], and as a sovereign country, we should make our own decision,” he said. “Why should it be burned?”

Samal said the Kingdom believes in using the ivory for educational purposes, such as for scientific research and for display at museums.

“We will be working with domestic museums to see if they are interested, but we don’t share the view that the display promotes the killing of elephants,” he said.

While the research on the effectiveness of destroying ivory as a deterrent is not universally accepted, numerous African countries where ivory is poached and many countries that intercept illegal shipments routinely destroy their stockpiles.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday during a Ministry of Interior event also questioned why the country should destroy the confiscated ivory.

“I heard that America wanted us to destroy it. No. America has no right to order [the] Khmer administration,” he said, adding that he had agreed to keep it for exhibitions “so that people know it’s from South Africa and was busted in Cambodia”.

Rhinoceros horns would also be displayed, he said, adding that some of the endangered items from Africa are almost extinct, which is why the Kingdom prefers to “take care of” the ivory.

He said that other countries would be allowed to borrow the ivory for their own exhibitions, if the request was made.

Suwanna Gauntlett, CEO for Wildlife Alliance, confirmed that her organisation has made several requests to the Cambodian government and to the US Embassy to destroy the confiscated ivory, but declined to further comment on the issue.

Jay Raman, spokesman for the US Embassy, said he couldn’t provide information on the topic yesterday as the embassy was closed.

Several leaders with other wildlife NGOs declined to comment or referred questions to other people.

Sarah Brook, a technical adviser with the Wildlife Conservation Society, said that she would be “more concerned” about the security of keeping the ivory.

“I would doubt that museums would be able to keep it secure and prevent it from returning to the trade,” she said.

Usual practice in handling illegal ivory is to destroy it or send it back to the country of origin, she said.

“A large number of countries are destroying it to send a message that this is an illegal activity that won’t be tolerated and prevent it from returning to the trade,” she said.

Meanwhile, an official from the Department of Customs and Excise, who declined to be named, yesterday said authorities are still searching for Nguyen Tien Chuong, 31, the suspect believed to be behind a massive 1.3-tonne ivory bust in December.

“We are hunting for him,” he said.

“The ministries of environment and interior had a meeting about this matter to [take] further measures.”

Source: PhnomPenhPost
Authors: Yesenia Amaro and Phak Seangly

“WHEN YOU BUY “IVORY” YOU ARE A MURDERER”

Netherlands – Major differences between Dutch political parties

The CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis has published the results of its assessment of the election manifestos. The report, Charted Choices 2018-2021, contains an analysis of the financial-economic choices made by 11 Dutch political parties. Differences between them proved to be large; both in the types of measures chosen by the various parties and in the resulting effects.

The political parties participating in this assessment are VVD, PvdA, PVV (the forget in this article) SP, CDA, D66, ChristenUnie, GroenLinks, SGP, DENK, VNL and the Vrijzinnige Partij. Over the past months, they have submitted their election manifestos to CPB for assessment. The assessment report presents figures, per party, on the effects of the various proposed measures on Dutch economic development, as well as medium- and long-term changes in areas such as employment, purchasing power and public finances.

The differences between participating parties, from a financial-economic perspective, are presented in a series of infographics. CPB Director Laura van Geest concludes that there are considerable differences between parties: ‘There is really something to choose from. In 2012, the elections were dominated by proposed spending cuts, whereas, this time, the economy is doing much better and parties are therefore opting to increase expenditures. Each party does so by setting their own priorities, with great differences between the envisaged measures. This naturally leads to varying economic results. Choices you make today may have a stronger effect on the long-term. In particular, with respect to long-term indicators such as structural employment, long term income distribution and the sustainability of public finances, differences are greater than in previous elections.’

Choices and compromises

For this edition of Charted Choices (Keuzes in Kaart), the 9th since the start of this publication series in 1986, a total of 1,165 measures were assessed. Each measure and choice has both advantages and disadvantages. Beginning with the choice between allocating either less or more money to, for instance, health care, education, defence and public administration, versus raising or lowering taxes. Often, there are also compromises to be made; measures with an assessed favourable impact in one area, usually, have the opposite effect on other objectives. For example, economic growth may be stimulated through increased spending, but this will have a negative effect on the EMU balance and the sustainability of public finances, in the long term. And a positive impact on employment is generally accompanied by an increase in income inequality.

Societal debate

Participation in the ‘Charted Choices’ assessment is voluntary. All parties in possession of at least one seat in the Dutch House of Representatives in mid October 2016 were invited by CPB to have their election manifestos assessed. Of those parties, 11 responded to this call, which is one more party than at the time of the previous elections. During the calculations to determine their economic impact, the election manifestos were compared against the baseline situation as presented in CPB’s most recent medium-term projections (2018-2021), which were published on Prinsjesdag (the day of the King’s speech) 2016, in the Macro Economic Outlook (MEV). In this way, insight could be provided into the economic effects of the choices made and priorities set by the various parties. And, although politics is about more than mere facts, measures and the economy, Charted Choices is aimed to contribute to these aspects of societal debate. In doing so, CPB refrains from making value judgements or from giving advice, and therefore appoints neither winners nor losers.

Source: DDN

MAKE THE NETHERLANDS GREAT AGAIN – VOTE PVV

Indonesia – Zoos to be standardized to combat animal abuse

The government plans to standardize all zoos and conservation institutions in the country following a series of reports of animal abuse at several zoos.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said standardization would be stipulated in a ministerial regulation that was being prepared.

“Because [if there’s no standardization], it could create problems, such as those at Surabaya Zoo and Bandung Zoo. These zoos have been criticized by the community,” she said in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, on Saturday.

Siti was referring to mismanagement plaguing the Surabaya and Bandung zoos.

(Read also: Plastic found in Surabaya zoo’s giraffe stomach)

Surabaya Zoo attracted local and international attention in 2012 following the death of many its animals. In one example, up to 20 kilograms of plastic was found in the stomach of a giraffe named Kliwon that was found dead in its enclosure. 

In response to the problem, an online petition calling for the zoo’s closure was soon initiated and obtained more than 100,000 signatures. 

Bandung Zoo, meanwhile, is being widely criticized following a video on YouTube showing sun bears at the zoo apparently begging visitors for food.

(Read also: Zoo defends condition following video of sun bears begging for food)

Sudaryo said he did not take the video seriously. “The animals here have enough food supplies, if you want to help, get in touch with us directly,” he said.

The same zoo came under fire last year when a Sumatran elephant, Yani, died after being sick for a week without receiving proper medical treatment. The zoo at the time did not have an in-house vet. (evi)

Yani, a Sumatran elephant, lies in pain at the Bandung Zoo. The 34-year-old animal died that day after receiving no treatment.

Source: TheJakartaPost

15 March D-Day in the Netherlands

#NederlandWeerVanOns

21 March is D-Day in the Netherlands.

The Dutch people go #Voting for a new government and ‘The House’ (2e kamer)
The majority is sick of the corrupt sitting government.
The all puppets from the also corrupt EU (Brussel)

The EU is a corrupt group of Elite not voted people.

The current government do nothing what the has promised in their election program
The only grab and grab and give all the dutch tax money to the corrupt wrong elite.

The most bad and corrupt premier minister ever

The now sitting premier minister is a real corrupt (VVD) clown.
It is not normal what the man make for mistakes, all in favor for the corrupt elite.

Other corrupt party leaders and ministers are (Top 3 Clowns)
Diederik Samson (ex-Greenpeace activist) PVDA
Alexander Pechtold (menber of the nazi Bilderberg Group) D66
Mark Rutte (Premier Minister) VVD

Hopefully the majority #Vote on D-Day for the right and strong people to clean up the mess in the Netherlands.

Close and check all borders. and not let more fake economic refugees inside the country.
Enough is Enough.

“LET THE NETHERLANDS GREAT AGAIN”

Thailand – Budget airlines add 150 baht surcharge to domestic flights

Budget airlines will start collecting a THB150 tax surcharge from domestic flyers following an increased tax on fuels by the Excise Department.

AIRLINES are preparing more marketing campaigns and promotions to maintain ticket volumes after the implementation of a new jet-fuel tax is set to drive up air fares.

Major carriers doubt that the higher tax on jet fuel will affect their business in the long term, but competition is expected to be even tougher, especially for budget airlines operating domestically. 

“It is expected to halt [affect ticket] bookings for a short period, but the impact is not clear yet. It may take two weeks to see the real impact.

“But higher costs will force airlines into more competition, which will focus more on fares,” Tassapon Bijleveld, chief executive officer of Thai AirAsia, said yesterday.

 He added that Thai AirAsia might double the frequency of promotions or packages to twice per week soon.

“We will monitor the situation every quarter,” he said.

An aviation expert at Thai Airways International said that although airlines had announced an increase in air fares due to higher costs, they had also prepared more marketing activities and campaigns to maintain ticket sales.

Another source in the travel industry said the higher excise tax for jet fuel would not have a major negative impact on airline business and air travel because many carriers, particularly low-cost airlines, would launch promotions to stimulate advance bookings.

The recent Cabinet decision to raise the excise tax on jet fuel and lubricants from 20 satang to Bt4 per litre went into force on January 25, causing airlines to announce fare increases on domestic routes. 

Govt cites fairness 

The government cited fairness as a reason for the jet-fuel tax increase, as diesel and petrol have been levied excise tax at Bt5-Bt6 a litre. 

The new aviation-fuel tax rate applies only to domestic flights, while international flights will still be able to refuel tax-free, added he. This higher tax is not expected to affect airlines or Bangkok Aviation Fuel Services, which provides refuelling services to airlines at both Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports, said MR Supadis Diskul, director and executive chairman of BAFS.

“Short or long term, we’re not affected. Airlines are also not affected since they can pass the costs through to passengers,” he said.

Supadis said air transport could remain competitive with buses despite the higher fuel surcharge.

Even if airlines have fewer passengers on each flight, it will not affect BAFS as long as they do not cut the number of flights, he said.

Low-cost airlines including AirAsia and Nok Air announced a Bt150 extra fuel surcharge |on January 31. An extra cost |will be included in all fares of Nok Air from February 6 next Monday onwards; Thai Lion Air will also implement an increase on Monday. 

Thai AirAsia said the increase went into effect on Wednesday.

Bangkok Airways announced that it was necessary to increase its domestic fares by Bt200 effective from February 8 next Wednesday.“The amended fares reflect the actual cost increase resulting from the rise in excise tax on jet fuel and lubricant,” executives of airlines said.

Source: Coconuts.co / TheNation

Cambodia – Siem Reap airport’s future up in the air

The Cambodian government is ready to move forward with negotiations on compensation for stripping a French company of its concession to operate Siem Reap’s international airport, while plans for the construction of a new Chinese-operated airport to serve the provincial capital are close to being finalised, a state official said yesterday.

In October, the Cambodian government reached an agreement with China’s state-run Yunnan Investment Holdings Ltd (YIHL) to build a new $880 million airport to serve Siem Reap. The agreement gave YIHL and its construction and airport management subsidiaries an exclusive 55-year build, operate, transfer (BOT) concession on the new airport, replacing the current exclusive agreement with Cambodia Airports, a company majority-owned by France’s Vinci Group, which was set to expire in 2040.

The Post reported in December that a government decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen called for the formation of an eight-person committee to lead compensation talks with Cambodia Airports, while YIHL would be responsible for distributing the settlement amount once its new airport begins operations.

Yim Nola, the senior minister of the Cambodian government who heads the committee, said the government informed Cambodia Airports late last year that it was prepared to discuss compensation and was awaiting its response.

“Until now we still have not heard anything from [Cambodia Airports,]” he said, suggesting that “they might need more time to study their proposal for the compensation amount”.

He added that once the company submits its proposal, the government would require time to evaluate the costs.

“A lot of time is needed for discussion,” he said.

Meanwhile, the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) set up a team earlier this week to provide technical and regulatory oversight for the construction of YIHL’s greenfield airport, according to SSCA spokesman Sin Chanserey Vutha. He said the team’s purpose was to help with the initial evaluation for the construction as well as to assist with any other technical challenges that might arise.

“We needed to set up the technical team to work with the Chinese investors as the SSCA is the local regulator and has the specific technical experience and expertise for regulation and compliance,” he said.

Vutha said YIHL has submitted documents for the airport to the Council for Development of Cambodia (CDC), while the group also established a local subsidiary, registered with the Ministry of Commerce under the name Angkor International Airport Investment Cambodia.

While the agreement for the new airport concession is definitive, Vutha said it was yet unclear what future role the existing airport facility would have, floating the possibility that it could be remain in use for domestic flights.

“In my view, the current airport could be used for domestic flights, but if that is not the case, it will have to shut down its operation,” he said.

Cambodia Airports operates international airports in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville under a 45-year concession dating back to 1995. The company recently sunk $100 million into upgrading its terminals in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Darwin Hem, principal partner at BNG Legal law firm, said that while Cambodia Airports’ concession contract has never been made public, compensation negotiations would likely follow the legal framework set forth by the 2007 Law on Concessions.

He noted the Law on Concessions “entitles the concessionaire to compensation in accordance with the terms stipulated in the concession contract, including the fair value of works performed, costs incurred or profit losses sustained by the concessionaire”.

He said even in the absence of a contractual clause on the reduction of the length of the concession contract Cambodia Airports would be entitled to compensation.

The government’s decision to prematurely end Cambodia Airport’s concession could have broader repercussions with international investors, especially if the negotiations are mismanaged or if the company suffers financial losses, Hem noted.

“In the transitional period of the negotiation arrangement for the concession contract, there may be a slight impact on the investors who want to invest in Cambodia, especially those who wish to sign concession contracts for land and infrastructure projects in the country,” he said.

“However, the impact may become stronger if the concessionaire incurs great losses following the negotiation.”

When reached yesterday, Cambodia Airports communication director Khek Norinda said the company did not want to comment on the ongoing negotiations, but expressed optimism for the result.

He said the issue of Siem Reap airport was of mutual concern for the government and Cambodia Airports, and “we are confident that the dialogue on its future development will deliver a constructive outcome”.

Angkor International Airport Investment Cambodia could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Source / Author:  Matthieu de Gaudemar and Cheng Sokhorng, PhnomPenhPost

#Cambodia – On the front lines of malaria elimination

Rural health centres throughout the country are leading the fight against the scourge of drug-resistant malaria. Can international organizations, local health officials and the government unite before the parasite spreads?

Amid the sugar cane plantations and rice paddies of Kampong Speu, the Oral district health centre appears no different from any of its counterparts throughout the country. Yet the work being done here, and at a handful of others selected as “sentinel sites”, has global consequences. It is an integral part of a system at the forefront of the fight against drug-resistant malaria a pervasive problem in Cambodia that has the potential to spread.

Here at the health centre, a team from the National Center for Malaria (CNM) and the district centre’s chief work together to track malaria patients, take samples of their blood, and monitor the effectiveness of the anti-malarial drug cocktail artesunate-mefloquine, or ASMQ for short.

ASMQ was first introduced here in January 2016 and scaled out nationally by the end of December, in response to the increasing failure of the previous combination therapy: dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DHA-PIP).

“Before, we used [DHA-PIP], but 50 percent of the patients that used that drug would come back sick,” says health centre chief Chea Him. Since then, he says, his team has been monitoring the effectiveness of ASMQ against the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, considered to be the most virulent strain. The development of resistance in the parasite is, for public health officials at every level, the major concern.

Him receives reports from a network of 47 “village malaria workers”, who administer malaria treatment at the local level. Nationally, some 4,528 such workers are the eyes and ears for monitoring the disease in the most remote and malaria-prone areas of the Kingdom. Villagers showing symptoms of malaria are treated and if need be brought to health centres for treatment. Those found to be infected are closely watched for weeks after their initial treatment.

Without the village workers, the CNM and the World Health Organization are essentially left blind in a high-stakes public health operation launched last year to eliminate P falciparum malaria in Cambodia by 2020. The effort is part of the WHO’s ambitious strategy to eliminate malaria from the Mekong region by 2030.

At a sentinel site like this one in Oral district, blood tests are carried out to monitor the efficacy of current treatments, and some samples are sent on to world-class research institutions such as the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh.

“For falciparum, resistance is a problem, because it’s a medical emergency,” explains Pasteur Institute researcher Dr Benoit Witkowski. “You need treatment to work quickly … [because] over 90 percent of malaria deaths are caused by falciparum.”

As such, monitoring resistance is hugely important, but it requires constant oversight and follow-ups.

“It’s not that a treatment is totally ineffectual, but if [resistant] parasites remain alive [in the patient’s blood after treatment], then they multiply and cause a resurgence of the sickness,” he says. This typically happens three weeks after the initial treatment. Then, he explains, when that mosquito bites the patient, it becomes a carrier and will go on to infect others.

Since switching to the ASMQ drug one year ago, the Oral district health centre has treated and tracked 45 cases, none of which have seen a resurgence of malaria.

It is good news for now, but for officials at the World Health Organization in Cambodia, the clock is ticking on when ASMQ will begin to fail.

“Cambodia is always pointed out as the initial place where malarial drug resistance is documented,” says Dr Jean-Olivier Guintran, a medical officer with the WHO’s malaria program. When asked how soon resistance might emerge, head of program Dr Luciano Tuseo pointed to the case of DHA-PIP, which began failing after two years.

“We can expect it to be a matter of months,” he says.

A history of resistance
The history of drug-resistant malaria parasites in Cambodia helps to explain why this is.

In the late 1950s, resistance to chloroquine, the WHO’s principle weapon in their first global malaria eradication campaign, was first detected in Cambodia, and by the late 1970s, it had spread to India and Africa. This caused millions of deaths as public health officials scrambled to deploy alternative treatments.

“Medicines would fail 50 percent of the time, and for children especially, that meant very high mortality,” Tuseo says.

Chloroquine was largely replaced in Southeast Asia with another drug, sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and then piperaquine, until it too began to fail in the 1980s.

Luckily, in the 1970s, the US Army developed mefloquine, which was successfully deployed to combat malaria; however, by the early ’90s, resistant parasites were once again detected and spread throughout Southeast Asia.

What prevented a repeat of the disaster of chloroquine resistance this time around was the introduction of artemisinin combinations. The artemisinin molecule had been independently developed by Chinese scientist Youyou Tu, for which she later received the 2015 Nobel Prize in medicine.

When Cambodia’s civil war came to an end, the WHO was able to begin monitoring the malaria situation in western Cambodia, historically the breeding ground of drug-resistant parasites, for the first time in decades.

During the Khmer Rouge period, the massive use of only artemisinin supplied by China likely caused resistance to develop, Tuseo says, although resistance to other drugs emerging from Pailin since remains a mystery.

This is the “million dollar” question, Witkowski says. Among the leading hypotheses, he says, is that resistance is driven by the misuse of drugs.

Another theory is that the parasites found here have a high likelihood of genetic mutation, meaning their evolution into a drug-resistant form is more likely than elsewhere.

“It’s also possible that [Southeast] Asian parasites are more capable of mutating [than those found elsewhere] and so the dice throw of finding a more resistant parasite is more likely,” he adds.

Oddly, the relatively low rates of transmission in Southeast Asia actually make drug resistance more likely. Lacking competition from “non-mutant” parasites, the rogue strains are free to evolve.

READ MORE ON: The Phnom Penh Post

Myanmar boosts incentives for infra development, labour-intensive projects

An advertising billboard of Ooredoo in Yangon. Foreign investment, particularly in the telecoms sector, continues to flow into Myanmar.

Myanmar boosts incentives for infra development, labour-intensive projects

THE MYANMAR Investment Commission, a government body to facilitate both foreign and local investment, has planned plans to provide more incentives for investors in the two areas that are crucial to the country’s growth, labour-intensive industries and infrastructure development, a senior official said.

According to Aung Naing Oo, secretary of Myanmar Investment Commission and director general of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, the MIC will also encourage agricultural-based industries, aside from its two priorities.

He also explained about the two things MIC would look at before allowing any investor to do business in Myanmar.However, he said proposed investments had to meet standards. “First, any investment must be in line with our existing laws and regulations. Second, we prefer quality investments rather than trying to improve on the quantity level. For example, if a mega project may bring negative impacts to the country, we do not think it is a good investment,” he said.


LEDSIGNZ

Other things that the government investment agency takes into consideration include a project’s prospects for profitability, how it can improve the national income and revenue, while creating job opportunities. The MIC also considers how a proposed project sits in the international and local market situation, generates demand for domestic consumption, makes use of innovation, and results in the application of relevant technology. A project must also have arrangements to minimize environmental and social impacts.

 During the new government’s term,From April to early October, the MIC has approved 45 foreign investments totaling more than $400 million and 22 citizen investment projects worth about $100 million.

and Ks170 billion.By August 31, Myanmar had approved 1,131 firms from 45 countries for investments of $64.4 billion. China stands as the top investor with 141 firms that have committed to invest $18.1 billion, followed by Singapore (214 firms, $13.5 billion) and Thailand (98 firms, $10.6 billion). Among the Top 10 investors are Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands, India and Vietnam.

Oil and gas, power, and manufacturing are the sectors in which Myanmar receives the most FDI. These three sectors are followed by transport and communications, real estate, mining, hotels and tourism, livestock and fisheries, agriculture, industrial estate, construction, and other services.

By September, the commission has allowed more than 46,000 local investors and over 5,000 foreign investors to do business. To cope with the increasing activity, MIC staffing was increased from 200 to more than 500 staff during the administration of President Thein Sein.

With the opening of its regional office in Hpa-An township in Kayin state on October 6, MIC now has nine branches, and two more branches will be opened by the end of this year, in the Bago and Magway regions.

“We hope to open branches in every state and region by 2017. If we can expand our network by opening new branches, things will get easier when we do investigation on project sites,” Aung Naing Oo said. He said he was confident that the MIC has the capacity to keep away dirty money.


LEDSIGNZ

“It is impossible to invest in Myanmar with black money, because we usually check the financial documents of all the companies, whether they register under the Foreign Investment Law or with Myanmar Citizens Investment Law,” he said.

Applicants’ finance is thoroughly checked, starting with their bank statements. Only transactions through banks are accepted, and this is under the monitoring of the Central Bank of Myanmar.

“It is really hard to transact black money via recognised banks.”

For investment by local entities, MIC cooperates with the Internal Revenue Department to check if the applicants pay taxes. The commission also has to report to the Home Affairs Ministry if a proposed investment exceeds 100 million kyat (Bt2.6 million), in case the ministry wants to check if money laundering is involved.

“Every investor has to attach necessary documents whenever they submit investment proposal. For example, if an investor submits a proposal to invest 10 million kyat but his bank account shows he possesses less than the proposed budget, we usually investigate how he will earn the remaining amount of money. This may involve a loan from an international organisation or a commercial bank and we may assess how he will manage to pay the interest etc,” Aung Naing Oo said.

Scrutiny in 2 steps

He said a project is scrutinised in two steps. “First, by MIC staff and secondly by the investment proposals assessment committee, which consists of high-ranking officials from relevant departments including ministries of commerce, labour, industry, construction, forestry and environmental conservation, the customs department, the internal revenue department, etc.” he said

“They also review the projects from their own perspective. If all of us are not satisfied with the proposal, we usually ask the investors for clarification and some necessary documents. Only when we all are happy, we will allow them to do business in Myanmar,” he said.

Aung Niang Oo noted that Myanmar welcomes all kinds of investment proposals. But the MIC may be unfamiliar with some projects and has to seek opinions from ministries, which sometimes lead to delays in the approval process.

Issuing permits is merely part of the MIC’s responsibilities. After issuing the permits, it has to check if the investors have followed their commitments in the proposals. This monitoring is the most exhausting process, the official said.

“Nowadays, we have more things to do than ever. We also have to help investors with their exports and imports after they receive the permits. So, our staff are usually super busy. That checking is usually carried out on weekends,” he said.

An investor who does not honour their commitments is liable to four types of penalties. First, a warning will be issued, then incentives like a tax holiday could be revoked. In some cases, a company’s operations will be suspended until the investors can satisfy the MIC. Lastly, a company can be blacklisted.

During the previous government term, two Korean garment factories were forced to shut down businesses for failing to follow the rules.

Source: TheNation