Tag Archives: ASEAN

Laotian Eye: Faster Times At Pi Mai As Culture, Continuity, Change Collide at Lao New Year

Laotian Eye: Faster Times At Pi Mai As Culture, Continuity, Change Collide

Thailand knows the time of year as Songkran. Cambodia has Chol Chnam Thmey. Myanmar marks the occasion with Thingyan. In Laos, Boun Pi Mai.

Also Known as Lao New Year, the biggest festival on the Lao calendar brings three days of celebration and rejoicing across the country and beyond, taking place every year from April 14th to 16th.

Celebrating Pi Mai (Lao New Year)

While it’s said each month has a different celebration for the people of Laos, Boun Pi Mai is certainly a very special one to Laotians at home and abroad.

Please Don’t Rush, It’s Wet!

Times change and social mores are on the move, influencing lifestyles of contemporary Laos.

 

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

The celebration of Lao New Year is no different. Yet one constant throughout is water.

Whether its ceremonially offering respect to elders or playing and throwing or sprinkling it on friends, a primary activity is always to get others wet.

Many folks set up a small paddling pool in front of their house.

Others go around in a pickup with a water bucket and throw water for fun, despite it being officially frowned upon.

The roadsides of Vientiane and other cities brighten up, with shopkeepers offering bold New Year fashions to the passing public.

People dress up for the celebration, particularly in Luang Prabang where traditions hold tightest.

ເທວະດາຫລວງ ໄປບູຊາ ຄາຣະວະ ແລະຟ້ອນອວຍພອນປີໃຫມ່ລາວ ຢູ່ວັດຊຽງທອງ ໃນວັນທີ 15/04/2019

Posted by ນະຄອນຫລວງພຣະບາງ Luangprabang City on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 15 ເມສາ 2019

There is a conflict between the decorum required at places of worship and on the street beyond.

Many don’t know the history of when it’s started and why.

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

As a young and curious boy, I heard from my grandfather that it’s a Buddhist festival.

As devotees, we believe (as followers of many other religions also do) that New Year can take bad things away and bring good fortune.

Of course, the festival known as Boun Pi Mai is not only celebrated in Laos.

Celebrations in neighboring countries all derive from the same Buddhist calendar.

These might have been scheduled to coincide with time between harvest and planting seasons to provide a window of rare leisure in the year’s hectic schedule.

These days I can not remember my childhood New Year celebrations in great detail, yet I am sure we didn’t have so many activities available as recently.

Forgotten memories return when I see the children playing with water in a village in Ngoi district near the town of Luang Prabang province.

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

The village was quite rustic, but the children were having heaps of fun just as I did with my friends some 25 years ago.

They fetched water from a stream in the woods.

In my time we had to pump it out of the ground by hand.

Before throwing it over each other of course!

Growing up, our home was by the main roadside of Nontae village inXaythany district, about 25km from Vientiane.

We had a water pump in the village which was close to my house.

All of our friends would be there playing with water together.

We were delighted anytime whenever some people were passing by, so we hurried up to pump the water out and throw at them. We would never tire of it.

I also remember that at the time, many of our fellow countryfolks of the Hmong and Khmu ethnicity didn’t celebrate Boun Pi Mai so much as they might today.

@Lao Youth Radio FM 90.0 Mhz Lao Youth Union

Posted by Laos Briefly on ວັນພະຫັດ ທີ 26 ເມສາ 2018

Due to the difference in cultures, they were sometimes furious when we threw water at them, but we were not concerned enough to stop.

Whatever they said we still gave a blessing to them all the times while showering them repeatedly.

Back to the Village & Family Homes

My family is big and extended one like a tree.

As my grandparents stayed in my house, most of our family would have an appointment at the new year to visit and have a Somma ceremony.

Somma sees children seek forgiveness from parents and older adults by giving Khan-ha (a set of offerings comprising five pairs of flowers and candles) and also conduct a Baci ceremony as well.

I don’t know when I first experienced the Somma ceremony, but we did it with older family members every year for as long as I can remember.

In the past, we had a long three-day celebration but spent more of that time with family and cousins in our village.

Maybe it’s because we didn’t have a car to take us to go away anywhere.

We would do all the traditional and cultural ceremonies such as Somma, Baci, bathing Buddha statues in our local area.

Of course, the festival was primarily a family and community celebration. It was a timeless joy to experience these together.

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Today, Lao New Year remains the biggest festival celebration and taking place everywhere nationwide.

Of course, anyone of any ethnic group or nationality can have fun together in Laos these days at Boun Pimai.

However, some things are changing. More and more cultural traditions are being left by the wayside.

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Young people have more time for loud music than culture, especially along the roadsides, house and drinking venues.

Of course, it’s enjoyable to mess around with water and have fun, but we should be aware of the meaning behind it.

Laotian youth at home and abroad should also know what Lao New Year means and continue the traditional forms of celebration for the benefit of current and future generations.

Max Mara vs Laos’ Oma Ethnic Group: Fashion Chain Facing Claims of Textile Plagiarism, Design Theft

Oma People of Laos versus Max Mara in Plagiarism, Design Theft Claim

The Laotian Times looks at the plagiarism accusations lodged against fashion chain Max Mara by the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre. In doing so, we also welcome the chance to publish Max Mara’s response to these claims as soon as they become available.

Alleged plagiarism of traditional designs of ethnic minority groups has hit the headlines in Laos with Italian born private fashion chain being accused of pilfering the property of the Oma people, an ethnic group who reside in the mountainous north and north-east of South East Asia’s multiethnic Laos.

No mention of origin. Products promoted on Max Mara Weekend Zagreb Instagram. #MaxOma Direct link:https://www.instagram.com/p/BvqktKiHM6A/(update: Max Mara has taken down this social media post!)

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 8 ເມສາ 2019

Weekend MaxMara Zagreb

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 8 ເມສາ 2019

Social media shares have hit the thousands for the underdog story of the year as the diminutive cultural community of a small number of villages goes into bat against global fashion giant Max Mara after the discovery of the alleged design theft in Croatia.

The campaign calls 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 that advocates for the intellectual property rights of ethnic minorities.

Side by side comparison. #MaxOma

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 8 ເມສາ 2019

Multi-million dollar fashion brand Max Mara is exploiting cultural designs and heritage of the Oma, an isolated ethnic minority group in northern Laos, without any acknowledgment or compensation, Luang Prabang’s Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre alleges.

No mention of origin of the "ethnic print" or the Oma on their website. #MaxOma

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 8 ເມສາ 2019

“Our grandparents passed down these traditions to our parents, and our parents to us. We are the Oma people, and we preserve our culture by making and wearing our traditional clothes. We need them especially for funeral rites, out of respect to our ancestors.” – Khampheng Loma, Head of Nanam Village

Campaigning alongside Laos’ Oma people is the Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre in UNESCO World Heritage Listed Luang Prabang.

In fact, it was the discovery of the alleged examples of appropriation by the centre’s staff in far-away Croatia that has led to the accusations against the fashion giant.Lauren Ellis, former employee of Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre and current museums curator based in Melbourne.

Side by side comparison. #MaxOma

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 8 ເມສາ 2019

Her reaction when she discovered the Max Mara collection in one of the brand’s stores in Zagreb, Croatia?

“I had to do a double take. It was only because I had worked in Laos that I immediately recognized the designs as Oma. They had copied the patterns exactly. I couldn’t believe that this major brand would sell such blatantly stolen designs.” 

Now, together the Oma and the TAEC are highlighting appropriation of the owners’ intellectual property following alleged Infringements by the Italian-founded fashion chain Max Mara.



Working with embroidery and applique is very challenging. Each motif is difficult and time-consuming to make. But, this is our tradition. Now, we can make products to sell to help support our families.” – Khampheng Loma, Head of Nanam Village

Side by side comparison. #MaxOma

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 8 ເມສາ 2019

The handmade textiles of the Oma are incredibly detailed, taking a huge amount of time, skill, and patience. To see them reduced to a printed pattern on a mass-produced garment is heartbreaking.” – Tara Gujadhur, TAEC Co-Director

Side by side comparison. #MaxOma

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 8 ເມສາ 2019

“The issue here is not the integration of Oma motifs in a more globalized world through the collection of Max Mara,” Dr. Lissoir said.

Cultures are fluid. Communities and their traditions and handicrafts are in constant change. They adapt themselves and get inspired by other cultures. Always have, always will.

However, Max Mara didn’t get inspired by Oma motifs and reinterpret them. They simply scanned a handmade piece and printed it on clothes without even mentioning the existence of Oma community.

This is not cultural appreciation. This is not creative interpretation. This is plagiarism.”

 

TAEC’s full statement reads:

“ITALIAN FASHION BRAND MAX MARA PLAGIARISES DESIGNS OF ETHNIC MINORITY GROUP IN LAOS”

“Multi-million dollar fashion brand Max Mara is exploiting cultural designs and heritage of the Oma, an isolated ethnic minority group in northern Laos, without any acknowledgement or compensation, Luang Prabang’s Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre alleges.

Max Mara Fashion Group, a multi-billion dollar Italian couture fashion house plagiarised traditional designs of the Oma ethnic minority group in their Spring/Summer 2019 collection.

The patterns appeared in dresses, skirts and blouses presented in the collection’s “Max Mara Weekend” resort line.

The Oma, a small ethnic community living in the hills of Phongsaly Province in northern Laos, embroider, stitch, and appliqué these colorful designs onto their traditional clothing, including head scarves, jackets, and leg wraps.

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

The colours, composition, shapes, and even placement, are identical to the original Oma designs. Max Mara’s design and marketing team has not acknowledged or compensated the Oma in marketing, labeling, or display of the collection in their stores and online shop, nor have they responded to urgent enquiries on the issue.

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 million, 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.

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, is Tara Gujadhur.

“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,” Gujadhur said.

“This is stealing the work of artisans who do not have the tools to fight it on their own,”

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, they sent repeated emails and messages to Max Mara’s headquarters, with no response.

As a result, TAEC is now taking to social media to amplify their message and enlist the public’s support.

A call for action is being shared from TAEC’s Facebook and Instagram page (@taeclaos), where photo comparisons of the products can be found, as well.

“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?,” Gujadhur said.

“Over the past three decades, protecting the intellectual property rights of the third world and indigenous peoples has become recognized as crucial, although how this should be done is much more debatable. We are looking at ways to assist the communities we work with to tackle this issue.”

“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.”

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 recognize 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 said.

“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.”

TAEC’s campaign to draw attention to this issue is now live, using Facebook, Instagram, and influencers across platforms to call out Max Mara’s plagiarism.

The campaign calls 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 that advocates for the intellectual property rights of ethnic minorities.

The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC) is a local social enterprise founded in 2006 to promote the appreciation and transmission of Laos’ ethnic cultural heritage and livelihoods based on traditional skills.

The Centre’s primary activities are two-fold: a museum, and fair-trade handicrafts shops directly linked with artisan communities. The Centre’s work includes school outreach activities, craft workshops, lectures, research, and a non-profit foundation.

What did Max Mara do?

Max Mara used traditional designs of the Oma ethnic minority group in their Spring/Summer 2019 collection for the “Max Mara Weekend” clothing line, without acknowledgment, and likely without permission or compensation. Oma women embroider, stitch, and appliqué these designs onto their traditional clothing, including head scarves, jackets, and leg wraps. Max Mara had these designs digitally duplicated and printed onto fabric, reducing painstaking, traditional motifs to factory-produced patterns. The colors, composition, shapes, and even placement are identical to the Oma designs.

Who are the Oma?

The Oma are a small ethnic group living in mainland Southeast Asia. They speak a language belonging to the Sino-Tibetan ethnolinguistic family, like the Akha – a community more numerous and widely recognized by the general public. While Oma are often described as a sub-group of Akha ethnic group (and called “Akha Oma”), many consider themselves a distinct community. This association with the Akha makes the exact population and number of villages of the Oma difficult to pin down. However, it is estimated that there are fewer than 2,000 Oma in Laos, inhabiting seven villages in Phongsaly province. Small Oma communities may also exist in neighboring southern China, northwest Vietnam, and Myanmar.


Can copying a design be considered “plagiarism?”

Absolutely. 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 is 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? Over the past three decades, protecting the intellectual property (IP) rights of third-world and indigenous peoples has become recognized as essential, though how it should be done is much more debatable.

TAEC Co-Director, Tara, working with the Oma artisans in 2017 to understand the time involved in creating their clothing.Photo credit: Radium Tam

Posted by Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 8 ເມສາ 2019

If the designs have no patent, how can Max Mara be held accountable?

Public opinion. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for traditional knowledge, artwork, design, and ideas to be co-opted by multinational corporations who have the power and financial clout to either ignore IP claims or drag them out in court. However, we have seen that a public outcry, negative press, and boycotting of brands can pressure companies to admit wrongdoing and improve their practices.

 

What should Max Mara have done if they wanted to feature the Oma’s designs?

They had many options. They could have approached the Oma community or artisans directly, and ordered their handmade work for a fair price to incorporate into their clothing, generating income for the community. There are organizations, like Nest, that work with brands to help link them to artisan groups and social enterprises in developing countries to collaborate. These partnerships can result in wonderfully creative products that also generate great visibility and earnings for both the brand and the communities. At the very least, Max Mara should have attributed the designs to the Oma (avoiding the generic “ethnic” term) and committed a certain percentage of profit to go towards education, rural development, or advocacy work with Oma communities.

How has the Oma community reacted to this issue?

The Oma artisans TAEC works 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 recognize this as an important, long-term process.

If they don’t understand the issue, why does it matter?

Plagiarism is wrong, whether the plagiarised feel wronged or not. Letting this kind of corporate behavior 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.

How did TAEC get involved?

TAEC has worked with the Oma since 2010 when we were hired to survey their crafts and identify potential income-generating opportunities for their artisans. Most recently, we have worked with them on documenting their traditional music and new year’s celebrations. Nanam Village is an approximately 9-hour drive from Luang Prabang, part of it unpaved, and is by far the most remote village (of 30 across Laos) that TAEC works with.

On Tuesday, 2 April 2019, a friend and former colleague was in Zagreb, Croatia, and saw the designs through a Max Mara shop window. She immediately shared pictures with us. Amazed, we initially thought it might be actual handcrafted work from the Oma that was incorporated into the clothing. Upon further examination, it became clear that not only were the Oma not credited in the name of the garment, on tags, or online, but the motifs were simply digitally reproduced and mass-printed. TAEC immediately reached out to Max Mara’s headquarters through various e-mail addresses and social media channels. After a week with no response, TAEC feels it’s important to make this issue public.

What should Max Mara do now to right this?

Max Mara should: (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 organization that advocates for the intellectual property rights of ethnic minorities.”

 

Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, Luang Prabang, Laos

Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, Luang Prabang, Laos

 

Flying In: Singapore’s Scoot Swoops Into Laos’ Vientiane, World Heritage Listed Luang Prabang

Flying from Singapore to Laos and beyond just got easier after Scoot launched its inaugural flights from the city-state to the jewel of the Mekong.

The inaugural journey marks the start of a three-times-weekly service from Singapore to Luang Prabang and Vientiane.

The flight was reported in local media including The Laotian Times sister publication ລາວໂພສຕ໌ Laopost.

The addition of the two destinations in Laos brings to a total of 67 in Scoot’s network across 19 countries and territories.

It is also the only airline offering direct Singapore-Laos services after routes were transferred from sister airline SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines.

The routes will be operated with Scoot’s A320 aircraft.

To celebrate Scoot’s maiden flight to Laos, traditional Lao music was played over the sound system in the aircraft.

Passengers onboard were tested on their knowledge of Laos and Scoot in a fun quiz.

Five lucky passengers walked away with prizes including Scoot travel voucher valued at SGD100, a Scoot travel organizer, a Laos travel guide, Scoot-in-Style lounge access and for the kids, a Scoot Nano Brick Aircraft and Control Tower Playset.

The flights operate on a circular routing departing from Singapore for Luang Prabang, followed by Vientiane, before heading back to Singapore.

Chief Commercial Officer of Scoot Mr Vinod Kannan welcomed guests celebrating the inaugural flight.

“Laos is a hidden gem that is yet to be discovered by many and is the ideal destination for people looking to escape from the concrete jungle,” he said.

“With Vientiane and Luang Prabang joining our network, our customers now have more travel choices, and travelers from Laos can also explore more destinations around the world via Singapore.”

Upon landing at Luang Prabang Airport and Wattay International Airport in Vientiane, the A320 aircraft named Yellow Tail, was greeted with a traditional water cannon salute.

Lumberings & Longings: Trials, Tales As Domesticated Elephants, Handlers Adjust to A New Era in Laos

Laos Mahout

Like wildlife in biological hotspots worldwide, Laos’ wild and domesticated elephants alike are facing a time of rapid and significant change, amid increased man-made developments and a fast-changing natural and socio-economic environment, Laotian Times writes.

E-Commerce Benefits Require Access, Digital Connectivity At Right Cost in Laos

Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR

Barriers such as costs and strength of connectivity, infrastructure, facilitation must be overcome so ongoing development of e-Commerce in Laos can assist more women, small firms, people with physical disabilities, and those in isolated communities to benefit from trade, according to research from World Bank.

Technology, e-Commerce, and connectivity mean the potential for exporting goods and services from Laos has never been greater, yet obstacles remain to fully comprehend and grab some of the many opportunities on offer, according to research released by the multilateral financier, the World Bank.

The rapid growth of e-commerce globally, including in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), helps lower the costs of trade for exporters from Laos and reduces prices for consumers, the research paper entitled Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR (English) has found.

It comes hot on the heels of the critical assessment on offer in the report Digital Connectivity in Lao PDR: Lagging Behind Peers featured by the Laotian Times: “Laos’ Online Connectivity Lagging Behind Peers As World Bank Research Reveals Extent, also in February 2019.

E-Commerce connectivity recommendations from World Bank via Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR.

E-Commerce connectivity recommendations from World Bank via Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR.

What is e-Commerce?

“E-commerce refers to the buying and selling of goods and services digitally”, according to the definition used in the research,

“Although limited available information suggests that Lao PDR has a minimal presence of e-commerce, it has the potential to present many opportunities:”

  • E-commerce can help lower the costs of trade for Lao PDR exporters and lower prices for consumers.
  • It can also reduce barriers to people who face disadvantages participating in traditional trade (ie. women, people with disabilities, and isolated communities).

    E-Commerce connectivity recommendations from World Bank via Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR.

    E-Commerce connectivity recommendations from World Bank via Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR.

Constraints to the e-commerce environment currently hold Lao PDR back from greater participation.

  • Limited internet connectivity, high costs of payments, incomplete regulatory infrastructure, and high trade facilitation and logistics costs are limiting factors.

The legal and regulatory framework needs strengthening in some areas to support greater participation in e-commerce.

  • Strengthening the protection of consumers participating in e-commerce and developing/implementing legislation for the protection of personal data will be key.
  • Taxation of e-commerce is also a priority policy area.  Any reform should be informed by a careful assessment of costs and benefits to avoid restricting the early growth of e-commerce.

Trade facilitation also needs further reform to avoid posing undue costs on small firms or entrepreneurs trying to enter into e-commerce.

  • The earliest area of growth in international e-commerce would likely be cross-border trade.
  • Small firms and entrepreneurs are least equipped to manage costs related to shipment delays, lack of transparency, and unpredictable regulations.
  • Clarification on regulations for low-value goods imports and a formal framework to streamline the process are necessary.
E-Commerce connectivity recommendations from World Bank via Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR.

E-Commerce connectivity recommendations from World Bank via Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR.

The reports key recommendations:

  1. Implement relevant ASEAN approaches to regulatory issues related to e-commerce, with a special focus on consumer protection, privacy, and electronic signatures.
  2. Take a cautious approach to imposing new taxes on e-commerce.
  3. Establish a transparent and consistently applied procedure for handling low-value cross-border trade.
  4. Move away from submission or paper documents for trade clearance and toward electronic submission of documents.
  5. Increase effort to apply risk management principles in processing cross-border shipments.
  6. Confirm the leadership role of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in the coordination of the e-commerce agenda.
Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR

Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR

Laos’ PM Thongloun Among Leaders In Singapore for ASEAN, East Asia Summits

33RD ASEAN Summit in Singapore

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has welcomed Prime Minister Thongloun and counterpart government leaders from across the region at the 33rd ASEAN Summit and related summits from Nov 13-16.

The presidents and prime ministers of governments from across South-East Asia are in the island state for regional dialogue on global issues of importance at key meets during a time of rapid, landscape-shifting changes in the region and beyond.

Also on the way to the city are leaders of ASEAN dialogue partners such as China’s Xi Jinping, India’s Narendra Modi, Japan’s Shinzo Abe and Russia’s Vladimir Putin for the 13th East Asian Summit.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Adern and Australia’s PM Scott Morrison will also make an appearance.

They will be joined by US Vice President Mike Pence, who will head the US delegation in the absence of US President Donald J Trump.

The summit will be followed by an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meet to be held in Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby.

ASEAN member states.

33RD ASEAN Summit in Singapore

33rd ASEAN Summit in Singapore

Simple, Natural, Innovative As BambooLao Straws Slurp Up Tourism Award

Luang Prabang’s very own BambooLao has captured the top prize and a US$10,000 Innovation Grant in the 2018 Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) challenge, which is described as “an elite travel startup competition, supported by the Australian Government and Asian Development Bank, (including) Asia’s most prominent travel-specialized venture capitalists among its advisors.

“BambooLao is on a mission to eliminate single-use plastics from hotels and resorts across Asia. They have produced more than 80,000 reusable bamboo straws and other bamboo utensils, using indigenous bamboo varieties and a proprietary natural treatment process.

“Their straws are used by Aman Group, Pullman, Rosewood Group, and Sofitel properties, as well as EXO Travel tours. BambooLao estimates their environmentally-friendly products have displaced the use of 5 million single-use plastic straws.”

MIST’s top prize comes with a USD10,000 innovation grant.

 

BambooLao

Winner of MIST’s 2018 Startup Accelerator, Laos’ Luang Prabang’s BambooLao.

“The MIST innovation grant will help us scale–up production from one to three villages. We must invest in capacity to meet growing international demand,” said BambooLao founder Arounothay Khoungkhakoune was reported as saying.

Bamboo Straws Production
Bamboo straw production a community process.

Vietnamese startup Ecohost reportedly captured MIST’s second prize and received a USD5,000 grant. Ecohost facilitates quality tourism experiences in the Vietnamese countryside, working with rural communities to develop tours and activities while improving the capacity of local homestays to serve international guests.

“BambooLao, Ecohost, and other MIST finalists demonstrate how the Mekong region’s bright, innovative entrepreneurs are finding practical solutions to solve industry problems while striving to make tourism more inclusive and sustainable,” said Jens Thraenhart, co-organizer of MIST and executive director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office.

According to the organisation, “MIST supports high-growth-potential emerging market startups in travel and hospitality, particularly startups that generate positive impacts for communities, culture, and the environment. The program’s five 2018 finalists refined their business acumen and pitching skills during MIST’s weeklong business fundamentals boot camp, five months of customized coaching by industry experts, and MIST pitch competitions in Ho Chi Minh City, Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, and ITB-Asia’s Mekong Travel Startup Forum in Singapore.”

 

Laos’ economic growth rate revised to 6.6%, floods dampen prospects

Students in Laos

Anyone who has been flicking on screens to news of floods in Laos, extreme weather-related disasters in the region and trade frictions beyond will not be surprised to hear that such developments have subdued economic growth somewhat.

Multilateral lender Asian Development Bank agrees. Its update of its flagship annual economic publication, Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2018 has economic growth for the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is expected to moderate in 2018.

ADB projects Lao PDR’s gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by 6.6% in 2018 and 6.9% in 2019, revised down from its April estimates of 6.8% for this year and 7.0% for next.

According to the bank’s analysis, weather-affected sectors like agriculture and mining outputs are forecast to underperform, with growth set to trend lower than previously forecast in April.

Agriculture is expected to grow by just 2.0% this year and mining outputs projected to decline by 2.0%.

Economic expansion related to electricity generation, construction, and services will partially offset these adverse effects, the bank asserts.

Electricity generation is expected to increase by 8%.

According to the ADB, construction is benefiting from foreign direct investment in hydropower and transport projects.

These include the railway line from Vientiane to the border with the People’s Republic of China now under construction.

A sharper depreciation of the Lao kip against the US dollar in the open market, compared with the official exchange rate from January 2018 to July, points to continued vulnerability to stress in external payments, the Bank states.

Inflation is forecast to be 2.5% in 2018 and 3.1% in 2019, about half a percentage point higher than ADO 2018’s projections.

The current account deficit in percent of GDP is projected at 13.8% in 2018 and 13.0% in 2019, lower than the April estimates of 14.9% and 13.7%, respectively. Despite Lao PDR’s expected improvement in the current account deficit, net international reserves are forecast to remain below $1 billion by December 2018, covering only 1.5 months of imports due to a large trade deficit weighing on the balance of payments.

Downside risks to the outlook in the near term include external payments vulnerability and the possibility of recurrent natural disasters.

With a stated commitment to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty, ADB was established in 1966. The multilateral lender is owned by 67 members including 48 from the region.

In 2017, ADB operations totaled $32.2 billion, including $11.9 billion in co-financing.