Category Archives: breaking

Max Mara vs Laos’ Oma: Alleged Fashion Design Theft Dispute Pushes Change.org Petition To 5,000

Max Mara vs Laos' Oma Change.org petition approaches 5,000

The ongoing design-related dispute involving Italian-based fashion house Max Mara, Laos’ ethnic Oma people Luang Prabang’s Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre over the alleged unauthorized use of traditional ethnic textile motifs from the remote ethnic community in the firm’s fashion offerings is heating up with an online petition reaching 5,000 signatures.

The petition entitled “Urge Max Mara to pull plagiarised ethnic Oma designs from their stores”  was posted on the popular site change.org

The Laotian Times reported on the dispute earlier this month in the article “Max Mara vs Laos’ Oma Ethnic Group: Fashion Chain Facing Claims of Textile Plagiarism, Design Theft“.

Now, an online petition via Change.org to the owner of the Fashion Chain Max Mara was approaching 5,000 signatures as of 10 am Monday April 22 in Laos (UTC+7).

Max Mara has gone silent. It’s been over a week since we sent our last letter, and since then, our petition…

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນອາທິດ ທີ 21 ເມສາ 2019

“Clearly, consumers and the general public feel that harvesting and profiting from the creative work of others, particularly ethnic minority groups in developing countries, is wrong, and allowing it to go unchecked sets a dangerous precedent,” the letter from TAEC to Luigi Maramotti, Chairman of Max Mara, states.

“As the chairman of your privately-owned company, we are now reaching out to you directly. Please demonstrate ethical and moral leadership in the fashion and textile industry.”

“We ask that you pull this line from your stores, online shop, and resellers, issue a public statement committing to not plagiarise in the future, and lastly, donate the proceeds earned from the sales of these designs to an organisation of your choice that works to the protect the rights of ethnic artisans around the world.”

     VS  Max Mara

Efforts to raise awareness to the plight of the intellectual property of some of Laos most remote communities is being spearheaded by the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre of Luang Prabang.

The Petition started by TAEC and addressed to Max Mara Chairman Luigi Maramotti and Designer Director Laura Lusuardi states:

“Max Mara, a billion dollar Italian fashion house, plagiarised traditional designs of the Oma ethnic minority group from Laos.

“This is not the first time that a fashion brand has copied or appropriated designs of an ethnic group from developing countries, and past experience has shown that these companies are only likely to respond when faced with public pressure and negative press.

“Max Mara digitally duplicated and printed the designs onto fabric, reducing painstaking, traditional motifs to factory-produced patterns.

“The colors, composition, shapes, and even placement are identical to the original Oma designs. The company has not acknowledged the Oma in marketing, labeling, or display of the collection in its stores and online shop, nor has compensation been paid.

Max Mara vs Laos' Oma Change.org petition approaches 5,000

Max Mara vs Laos’ Oma Change.org petition approaches 5,000

“The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre is calling for Max Mara to (1) pull the clothing line from its stores and online, (2) publicly commit to not plagiarising designs again, and (3) donate 100% of the proceeds already earned from the sale of these garments to an organisation of its choice that advocates for the intellectual property rights of ethnic minorities. More information can be found on TAEC’s Facebook page.

“A largely agrarian community, the Oma live in the remote mountains northern Laos, northwestern Vietnam and southern China.

“Their exact population and number of villages is difficult to establish, as they are often grouped as part of the larger Akha ethnic group. However, it is estimated that in Laos there are fewer than 2,000 Oma across seven villages.

“Traditional clothing is still a vital part of the identity and pride of Oma people — handspun, indigo-dyed garments with vibrant red embroidery and applique is distinctive and unique to their group.

“In recent years, Oma women have begun to earn income through the sale of their distinctive crafts. In remote communities with few economic opportunities, these earnings are vital, and used towards improved nutrition, health, and education for their families.

“Founded in 1951 by Italian Achille Maramotti, Max Mara Fashion Group has grown into an international fashion powerhouse with over 2,200 stores in 105 countries and an online shop.

In 2017, Max Mara Fashion Group recorded global sales of €1.558 billion, across all brands. Unlike most couture houses which are publicly traded or held by multinational corporations, Max Mara Fashion Group is privately-held and helmed by Luigi Maramotti, CEO and a member of the original founding family.

“This is not an example of simple cultural appropriation, where designers utilize ‘ethnic-inspired’ elements, colors, materials, or styling, toeing the murky line between appreciation and appropriation.

“This is stealing the work of artisans who do not have the tools to fight it on their own,” states Tara Gujadhur, Co-Founder of the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC), a social enterprise founded to celebrate and promote Laos’ ethnic cultural heritage and support rural artisans.

“TAEC’s small team based in Luang Prabang, Laos, is working to draw attention to Max Mara Fashion Group’s negligent behavior. Upon discovering the company’s plagiarism purely by chance on 2 April 2019, they sent repeated emails and messages to Max Mara’s headquarters, with no response.

“As a result, TAEC took to social media to amplify their message. The company finally responded on 10 April, but has not issued any apology or admitted their mistake, simply demanding the campaign cease, and then threatening potential legal action.

“A design is intellectual property, whether it’s sketched in a notebook by an illustrator, mocked up by a graphic designer on a computer, or embroidered on indigo-dyed cotton in a remote village in Laos.

“If it’s generally understood that using someone’s photography or written work without acknowledgment or permission is wrong, why would a handcrafted textile design be any different?” states Gujadhur.

“For this behavior to go unchecked is dangerous, as it sends the message that creative work that is traditional and shared by a community and culture in the developing world does not deserve the same kind of protections given to contemporary designs by individual ‘artists’ in the West. Companies can harvest motifs, materials, and ideas freely from communities that lack the educational, financial, and technological resources to have their rights recognized,” elaborates Gujadhur.

TAEC began working with the Oma in Nanam Village in 2010, when the organization was hired by a German development agency to survey their crafts and identify potential income-generating opportunities for the community. Since then, TAEC has helped Nanam to create more market-oriented products, such as pouches, cuffs, and wine bottle sleeves, generating much-needed cash for the women artisans and their families.

“The handicrafts are sold in TAEC’s museum shops in Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Laos’ few cities that draws significant international tourism. Currently, TAEC works with over 30 communities across Laos, with fifty percent of the proceeds from their shops flowing directly to artisans.

TAEC has spoken to Khampheng Loma, the headman of Nanam Village, and not surprisingly, he was somewhat unclear about the issue. “The artisans we work with live in a very remote community, so their life experience is completely removed from issues of intellectual property rights. However, we will continue to discuss it with them, as we recognise this as an important, long-term process,” according to Thongkhoun Soutthivilay, TAEC’s Co-Director, who works closely with the Oma women on handicraft production.

“Each motif has a special meaning,” Loma shared. “Our tradition of embroidery makes us who we are. In our culture, you have to know how to embroider to be able to call yourself Oma.”

 

Laos Criminalizes Animal Abuse in Updated Penal Code

Laos ​Penal Code Criminalizes Animal Abuse

Laos has added a new section to its penal code that criminalizes animal abuse.

This section appears in the latest version of the country’s penal code, which was promulgated by the Lao Government on November 18, 2018.

Article 353 of the updated penal code states that individuals who abuse or mistreat animals, including acts such as ​incarceration without food or water, use of animals for labor without adequate rest, severe beatings, transportation in substandard conditions, cruel slaughter of animals, or the use of poison against animals, will face imprisonment or fines of between 500,000 kip to 3,000,000 kip.

Repeat offenders will face imprisonment from three months to one year, and be fined up to 10,000,000 kip.

The new addition to the penal code demonstrates a shift in attitudes toward animals, and will assist in ensuring the protection of animals against abuse.

While animal abuse is commonplace in some sectors of society, the inclusion of animal protection in the penal code will give law enforcement officers the authority to punish those who abuse animals, or those who overwork animals used for labor.

If adequately enforced, the new law could affect popular cultural pastimes such as cock fighting, or the abuse of animals for tourism purposes. Meanwhile, the law may be used as further ammunition against the trade in dog meat or that of wild animals. 

According to an official at the People’s Supreme Court contacted by the Laotian Times, any act of animal abuse may be reported directly to the Criminal Investigation Division of the relevant district.

 

Photo: Captured Abroad

Travel Plans? Laos Set to Provide eVisa From June 2019

Laos EVisa Program Planned for June Implementation

Laos has announced it will begin offering electronic visas (eVisa) to foreign tourists and travelers from June this year.

Establishment of the eVisa program will commence in mid-2019, according to a Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs notice issued earlier this month dated March 11.

Laos' eVisa plans announced in note issued via Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Laos’ eVisa plans announced in note issued via Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The move comes as the government takes steps to modernize and ensure visa procedures are faster and more convenient for tourist visa applicants, according to the notice.

It is also another means by which the government hopes to attract more tourism to the country.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs consular office is working with all other ministries and departments to ensure the comprehensive and timely development of the eVisa program.

The eVisa program, it is hoped, will allow foreign visitors greater access to information and more convenience in visa processing, and will assist in making the country more widely known among tourists.

It comes as policymakers and the private sector seek to capitalize on the benefits of improved connectivity and widen the range of offerings to attract valuable tourism and travel-related income and investment.

© The Laotian Times

 

Haze of Smog Hovers over Laos’ Capital, Citizens Concerned about Health Risks

Smog Descends upon Laos

An unhealthy haze of smog has descended upon the capital city of Vientiane and air pollution has been noted in several other provinces around Laos.

Concerned local and international residents have been monitoring the situation, posting online their own amateur updates on the local levels of atmospheric particulate matter (PM) using measuring devices.

These measurements tell a similar tale. Air quality in the past few days appears to have reached dangerous levels for human health.

While the Lao government has not yet made any announcement regarding the smog, the Laotian Times office was able to contact the Pollution Management Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

According to officials at the department, unhealthy levels of pollution have been detected. However,  they state it is expected that within two or three days the situation will have improved.

Condominiums at That Luang Marsh SEZ almost invisible due to smog

Condominiums at That Luang Marsh SEZ almost invisible due to smog

The major source of the smog is said to be a forest fire in Sangthong District, Vientiane Capital, which has now been extinguished.

Lao citizens and foreign residents alike have voiced concerns about the smog, and social media has been flooded with information of varying reliability.

Many have taken to purchasing their own air quality reading devices, and many have looked to Thai websites for information on how best to deal with the problem at home.

It follows a famous case of dangerous smog that was reported in Bangkok this February, with schools closing and workplaces shut down due to particulate matter levels at PM2.5 (referring to particularly dangerous particulates measuring 2.5 micron in diameter or less).

Thailand’s Chiang Mai has also been hit with smog this month and was forced to ground flights, and was believed to be world’s most polluted city in terms of air quality for three days running.

This situation was monitored closely by people in Laos, who have raised questions as to why schools and workplaces have not been given any instructions by the authorities here.

Meanwhile, the possibility of rain over the next few days could provide some respite for the capital, if not the other provinces depending on where it falls.

Photo: Aleqs Log

Vientiane Bans Sale of Alcohol before 4pm

Vientiane Bans Sale Alcohol Before 4pm

(Lao Post)

In a drastic move to promote health and safety among members of Lao society, the Mayor of Vientiane has taken measures to ban the sale of alcohol or alcoholic beverages in the capital before 4pm.

According to a Decision issued 21 December 2018 by the Office of the Mayor of Vientiane Capital on Measures for Reduction of Accidents and Road Safety Promotion, retailers and other establishments who sell alcohol or alcoholic beverages will be subject to routine inspections and fines starting 1 July.

Similarly, civil servants or government employees in violation of these regulations, or who do not assist police officers in apprehending those responsible, will be subject to strict disciplinary measures.

Implementation of this Decision will be pivotal to its success, and the government hopes all citizens will take part in order to reduce the number of accidents in the nation’s capital caused by consumption of alcohol, and damage caused by drink driving.

 

 

Thailand May Reinstate Land Border Entry for Expats in Neighboring Countries

Thailand Visas

Could the cross-border retail and recreation-related dreams of foreign expatriates, non-diplomats and other non-Lao-non-ASEAN-passport-holding residents in Laos be about to come true across the Mekong in Thailand once again visa-free?

Laos’ near neighbour is reportedly considering removing the restrictions on land border entry affecting foreign expatriates in neighbouring countries including Laos for an initial period of two months, both The Nation and Bangkok Post reported on November 14.

Bangkok Post's List of Planned Changes includes a proposed lift on restrictions affecting expatriate residents of Laos.

Bangkok Post’s List of Planned Changes includes a proposed lift on restrictions on land border entry, potentially improving connectivity for expatriate residents of Laos.

The move would loosen restrictions that have been in place since December 31, 2016 as reported by Laotian Times.

The reported move from the country’s cabinet Tuesday comes amid efforts by Thailand’s policymakers to attract more visitor arrivals.

Other proposed measures also include double-entry visas for six months and special discounts at Thai malls under the “Amazing Thailand Grand Sale: Passport Privileges” campaign that continues from November 15 to January 15, 2019.

Since the start of 2017, limits on land border entry have affected foreign non-ASEAN passport holding expatriates (including those eligible to a visa-waiver), restricting them to just two single visa-free entries on arrival via the country’s land border points per year.

It remains to be seen whether the mooted liberalization will come in the form of carving out an exemption for foreign expatriates or result in the removal of the two-times-per-year land border entry restriction entirely.

Either way, a loosening on the restriction is likely to be welcome news, particularly to those for whom visa application processes and fees have proved onerous enough to prevent them from regularly visiting otherwise accessible destinations located on the far side of mighty Mekong.

Thai Visas

Maybank Foundation Expands Silk Weaving Centre in Laos

Maybank Women Weavers Laos

Maybank Foundation has expanded its Maybank Women Eco-Weavers centre in Laos with the addition of a hostel for the women who are being trained in this traditional skill.

The construction of the weaving centre, located in the Xiangkhouang Province of Laos, some 386 kilometres away from Vientiane, began in January this year as part of Maybank Foundation’s breakthrough initiative, a first-of-a-kind regional programme which provides business opportunities and empowers underprivileged women weavers and mulberry farmers to become financially independent.

The setting up of this new hostel is to address the transportation and geographical problems faced by the trainees, some of whom have to travel for up to two days to reach the farm to attend the 15-day on-site training programme. The hostel will be able to accommodate 20 trainees at any one time and also comes with a meeting room for use during their training session.

Maybank Speaker

The launch of the hostel was officiated by Datuk Mohaiyani Shamsudin, Chairman of Maybank and Maybank Foundation and Madam Kommaly Chantavong, founder of Mulberries, a social enterprise which is Maybank Foundation’s partner in Laos. It was held at the Mulberries Farm in Xiangkhouang Province, a flat but high plateau in the mountainous north-east of Laos.

Also present at the launch were Bounhom Thepthani, Cabinet Deputy of the Governor’s Office, Xiengkhouang Province; Sivilay Sengchalern, Paek District Governor, Xiengkhouang Province; Visone Xaysongkham, Head of the Bank of Lao PDR, North Branch, Xiengkhouang Province; Johan Arief Jaafar, First Secretary of the Malaysian Embassy and Colonel Mohd Mahmud Ahmad, Defence Attaché, Embassy of Malaysia as well as Shahril Azuar Jimin, the CEO of Maybank Foundation.

Speaking at the event, Datuk Mohaiyani said, “I am pleased to see how we have developed ever since we started this programme in 2016, beginning in Cambodia and then Indonesia. The Maybank Women Eco-Weavers initiative is not only exceptional in its objective to preserve, sustain and promote traditional textile making techniques highlighting the ASEAN identity but also to help disadvantaged women achieve economic independence which is in line with our mission to humanise financial services.”

“Another unique feature of this programme is that it is designed to also support the ecosystem of textile weaving, including by supporting small farming families by growing mulberry trees, in which the leaves are essential for silk worm rearing,” Datuk Mohaiyani added.

Maybank Participants at Hostel

Meanwhile, Shahril said that through the training, capacity building and production-related financial incentives, these women are given the opportunity to help themselves and their families become economically stable and financially inclusive.

“To further demonstrate our seriousness in ensuring the sustainability and continuity of this programme as well as the empowerment of these women weavers, Maybank Foundation has not only provided financial aid to support the project but also invested time and effort to ensure the rigorous training is beneficial in the development of the women weavers. This is to ensure that they can continue to create a financially conducive environment for their dependents in hopes of continuing with their livelihoods in this challenging environment.”

The Maybank Women Eco-Weavers programme was launched in 2016 and is currently running in three countries namely Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos. To date, this programme has successfully trained a total of 345 women providing them with an average monthly income between USD100 to USD240. Maybank hopes to also expand the programme soon in Malaysia.

The Maybank Women Eco-Weavers programme aims to help sustain local heritage and culture, build the capacity of new weavers and promote traditional textiles globally in a sustainable manner. The programme is endorsed by the ASEAN Foundation and showcases Maybank Foundation’s role towards a more inclusive ASEAN, by strengthening women’s empowerment and gender equality in the region, to support the ASEAN Community Vision 2025

Maybank Foundation is the corporate responsibility arm of the Maybank Group, which seeks to positively impact communities in markets that Maybank operates. The Foundation’s programmes are focused on six key pillars which are Education, Community Empowerment, Healthy Living, Arts & Culture, Environmental Diversity and Disaster Relief.

Fortunate Escape For 66 Folk? Search for Missing Flood Victims in Attapeu Officially Ends

Search for Attapeu Flood Victims Offiically Ends

Sixty-six fortunate folk have been located alive as the Lao government taskforce headed by the Deputy PM reported 34 confirmed dead, 31 missing and another six post-flood disaster-related fatalities in Attapeu in final figures cited by to the nation’s news media Thursday.

The search for the remains of victims from the XePian Xe Namnoy hydropower Saddle dam D failure disaster has come to an official end, with a meeting presided over by Laos’ Deputy Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone on Thursday was set to consider for confirmation a report and press statement on the loss of human life resulting from the July 23 flash floods in Sanamxay district, Attapeu province.

A draft press statement yet to be endorsed by the committee was reported on by Lao National Radio.

Lao National Radio

Lao National Radio on Sanamxay Flood Toll

It found the meeting of the National Disaster Preparedness Committee was expected to hear some 34 had been located deceased, a further six folk had since died in hospital from injuries sustained in the period since the disaster on July 23.

In a remarkable turn of fortune yet in fitting with the remoteness and challenges presented by the flood-affected area, it was also expected to endorse the finding that some 66 fortunate folk had been found alive. As a result, the number missing has been revised down to 31.

The meeting was also to report on efforts in the recovery and restoration of livelihoods for flood-affected households in Attapeu including progress on issues relating to water and food, clothing and shelter. It heard an overview of the situation concerning the livelihoods of survivors, specifically the progress made in constructing housing and the distribution of foodstuffs to flood victims.

It also aired the results of research on creating a special task force at the provincial level to promote, monitor and assist implementation of various works to help the affected population until Attapeu “can stand on its own once more”.

The number was revised down from the previous figure of 131 after it was discovered that some 66 persons including those who had been registered as residents and believed possibly missing were not in the affected area at the time.

According to the statement under consideration at the meeting, Interviews with village offices and those at the scene had revealed that 66 persons had escaped to different areas during the event and have since returned to be registered, reducing the official number of missing persons to 65.

Of this number, the remains of 34 were found in the search, leaving the number of persons unaccounted for at 31 persons.

Among those that were severely injured, the number of people who have died in hospital numbers six. In addition to those found deceased directly as a result of the catastrophe, the confirmed death toll from the disaster stands at 40.

The committee was also to hear minutes from a recent Prime Ministerial meeting, during which the PM highly valued and praised the efforts of the special task force. The statement indicated the efforts had been implemented as guided by the Party and government, and in accordance with the government’s disaster recovery plan.

The task force was expected to be told it must continue to assist in disaster recovery work nationwide, particularly in Attapeu, where the livelihoods of affected victims must be improved.

This could be achieved by creating new production areas, protection from diseases, daily needs and the continued construction of temporary and permanent housing, to ensure the livelihoods of affected victims will continue to be improved from their current fate and onward towards a state of greater livelihood security and normalcy.