Tag Archives: china-laos

Cabinet Strengthens Gov Agencies Leeway To Act on Land Concessions

Lao Government Revokes Land Concessions

Land Concessions, giving development and usage rights to various individuals and corporate domestic and international investors, has long been considered one of the critical levers to leverage local and foreign investment, economic activity and job creation in Laos.

A form of long term rental, the usage rights to state land have been ceded to investors for projects from shopping malls to banana farms.

As with all investments, the results have been mixed. Amid the successes, it is now those cases of incomplete and inactive investments, environmental pollution and failed developments that have long proved a recurring issue, leading to disquiet for those affected and headaches for Laos’ policymakers, legislators and regulating authorities as Laotian Times has previously reported.

The lack of progress on a total of 81,879 hectares held under some 201 land concession projects has spurred a new round of government efforts to resolve the discrepancies under the country’s laws and respective contract conditions.

Prompting the cabinet to act were the findings of a report indicating that some 240 state land concession projects had been causing environmental damage, the nation’s press representatives were informed on February 20, 2019.

Based on such revelations, country’s cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Thongloun has instructed the country’s state agencies to revoke the land concession licenses held by investors who fail to proceed with developments in accordance with their agreements.

The meeting also approved measures to encourage investors to develop the land for which they had received concessions.

Measures approved include the authorization for state agencies to cancel concessions or fine those companies that fail to utilize state property in ways they were required to under the agreements they signed, government spokesperson Dr Chaleun Yiapaoher told the press conference held at the conclusion of the monthly cabinet meeting held on Wednesday.

Other key topics discussed include measures to improve the business climate, tax collection, rural area development and urban planning for the future needs of the capital towards 2030 and beyond.

The latest moves by the government to regulate and in cases revoke rights for failure to abide by agreements in state land concession projects comes after National Assembly members debated the issue in December.

Foremost among several cases of complaints from local communities aired at the National Assembly regarded pollution caused as a result of the activities at banana plantations in several provinces.

It saw the NA resolve that the government agencies actively push such concession holders to ensure their investments and activities abide by contract conditions for the use of state land while complying with related laws and policies.

The cabinet directed state agencies and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to improve assessment of all land in question following the laws and guidelines before granting investors the right to a concession.

This could also better permit the Ministry of Finance to collect revenue in the form of land concession fees from project developers, Dr Chaleun said.

Land concession projects could only be approved in accordance with national and provincial land development master plans approved by the relevant authorities, investors and agencies were reminded.

Relevant state agencies were also instructed to work together to ensure that forests and other wildlife habitat areas were protected from damage by investment projects.

China-Laos Railway to Become a Demonstration Project

China-Laos railway will be built to become a demonstration project in “Go Global” strategy, said Chinese companies participating in a symposium held in Vientiane on Monday.

At the symposium, Zhao Xiang, Director General of the Laos-China Railway Company provided relevant information on Lao taxation, project investment, visa processing, personnel issues, among others.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Laos-China Railway Company Huang Difu put forward specific requirements for units involved in the construction of the multibillion dollar railway project.

Chen Shiping, Director General of China Railway International Group vowed to send skilled personnel, use advanced construction technology and management models in order to complete the project with high quality, making China-Laos railway a demonstration project in China’s “Go Global” strategy in railway sector and the “Belt and Road” initiative.

Meanwhile, signing ceremony of tender contracts for the second phase of the China-Laos railway project was held in Vientiane. The signing included 11 contracts on civil engineering, construction supervision and third-party testing.

The China-Laos railway has a total length of over 400 km, linking Mohan-Boten border gate in northern Laos and Vientiane Capital. Operating speed on the route is designed at 160 km per hour. Kicking off in late 2015, construction of the project is scheduled for five years with investment of about 37.4 billion Chinese yuan.

 

Source: KPL

China-Laos Investment Pact Applies In Casino Tiff, Court Says

New York  — An investor from the Chinese territory of Macau that sued the Laotian government for effectively stealing its casino had its arbitration against the country resuscitated by Singapore’s highest court on Thursday, with the judges finding that Macanese companies are protected by China’s bilateral investment treaty with Laos even though both countries contended otherwise.

Sanum Investments Ltd., a Macanese entity with a Dutch parent company, struck a special tax deal with the Laotian government in 2007 as part of the process of building a gambling resort near the country’s border with Thailand. The company demanded arbitration after disputes over taxes and ownership came up, and a Singaporean tribunal found in 2013 that it had the authority to hear the dispute because the once Portuguese territory of Macau had become part of China in 1999.

Laos challenged the arbitrators’ decision, however, saying letters it exchanged with China in 2014 proved that neither country meant for their treaty to cover Macau when they signed in in 1993. A judge of Singapore’s high court accepted the letters and ruled in favor of Laos, but five judges of the Court of Appeal reversed him on Thursday, saying the letters didn’t outweigh a bedrock principle of international law known as the moving treaty frontier rule.

“In our judgment, there is nothing in the text, the objects and the purposes of the [China]-Laos BIT, or in the circumstances of its conclusion, that points to an intention to displace the MTF rule such that it would lead to the conclusion that the BIT does not apply to Macau,” the judges wrote.

The Laotian government has argued that documents including a 1987 declaration by China and Portugal and a 2001 report by the World Trade Organization supported the view that its BIT with China didn’t suddenly extend to Macau. The 2014 exchange of diplomatic letters, which it said took place after informal communications, simply confirmed what had been the case all along, Laos argued.

The city-state’s top court found otherwise, however. Both parties accepted that customary international law holds that a state’s treaty obligations stretch as far as its sovereignty does, even when its borders change, the judgment said. But the judges said the text of the China-Laos BIT didn’t purport to change that, nor did Laos “otherwise establish” that the rule didn’t apply as it normally would.

Although a lower court saw the 2014 letters as simply confirming what had been clear, the Court of Appeal said the older evidence had supported Sanum’s stance. Accordingly, the judges said, the 2014 letters should be granted “no weight.”

The function of evidence that came to light after arbitration starts, they wrote, “is to corroborate and to explain. To the extent that it contradicts what has been established by the pre-existing position to give the party seeking to rely on it an evidential advantage in its case, it should not be admitted.”

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon wrote the judgment of the court, joined by Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, Andrew Phang Boon Leong and Judith Prakash, and Judge Quentin Loh.

Sanum is represented by Alvin Yeo SC, Koh Swee Yen, Monica Chong Wan Yee and Mak Shin Yi of WongPartnership LLP.

Laos is represented by Cavinder Bull SC, Lim Gerui, Darryl Ho Ping and Eunice Chan Swee En of Drew & Napier LLC. The country was represented in arbitration by David J. Branson.

J. Christopher Thomas QC and Professor Locknie Hsu were amici curiae.

The case is Sanum Investments Ltd. v. Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, civil appeal numbers 139/2015 and 167/2015 and judgment number [2016] SGCA 57, in the Singapore Court of Appeal.

 

Written by: Jack Newsham

Editing by: Bruce Goldman

Source: Law360