EPA PE R NATIONAL : MYANMAR TO HELP EBOLA-HIT NATIONS ✪2 First INDEPENDENT English daily www.elevenmyanmar.com FRIDAY, December 26, 2014 INSIDE 1st poll in decades NATIONAL Yangon to hold rare polls on Saturday that observers say are flawed NLD statement implicated govt in Letpadungtaung clashes ✪3 BUSINESS Major company absent from top tax payer lists ✪4 AFP ASEAN+ People pass by a campaign truck on the outskirts of Yangon. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE Yangon MYANMAR’S main city is poised to go to the polls Saturday for the first municipal vote in six decades, but observers warn the process is riddled with flaws and could cast a shadow over crucial 2015 general elections. For many the ballot in Yangon, home to more than five million people, will offer the first taste of voting under the country’s quasi-civilian government and a rare chance to steer the direction of its biggest commercial hub. But there are fears the election for the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), which comes just months before next year’s landmark vote in the former juntaruled nation, is falling far short of democratic norms with strict curbs on who can vote, as well as who can stand, among the clauses causing concern. “It will be unfair, but I am taking part anyway,” said Win Cho, a political activist who registered to stand in the city’s western district just days after being released from a jail term for protesting without permission. “If we do not take part, we can’t do anything for the people,” he told AFP. The polls mark only the second major vote since 2010 general elections, which were marred by widespread accusations of cheating and the absence of Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition. A 2012 by-election held in a handful of constituencies across the country was considered much freer and allowed the veteran democracy campaigner to enter parliament for the first time. These polls “represent a measuring stick as to how genuinely democratic - or not Myanmar is becoming”, said Yangon-based political analyst Susanne Kempel. But rules governing this latest ballot “fall short of international standards for democratic, free and fair elections”, she said. ■ Ballot restrictions Voting has been limited to one person per household - meaning only around 400,000 people can cast a ballot - while narrow age restrictions for candidates together with a ban on political parties taking part is viewed as deeply problematic. Under the rules appointed figures will also outnumber elected ones at the city’s top council within the YCDC, which has major responsibilities over infrastructure, heritage and tax collection in Yangon. Regional poll regulators running Saturday’s election defended their handling of the process. “Candidates who will get the most votes will win. So you cannot say the voting system is not fair,” the city’s election chairman Tin Aye said. Appetite for a greater say in how Yangon is run is growing in some quarters of the metropolis, which is rapidly transforming as the country sees a flood of foreign investment. Decaying infrastructure, worsening traffic, runaway property prices and rapid construction often at the expense of the colonial-era buildings - are vexing the denizens of Yangon. An open letter by the Association of Myanmar Architects recently decried authorities’ handling of rampant construction in the city. “If the situation is not controlled quickly, we will not be able to solve the problems created for the next 50 years,” it warned. But local people approached by AFP expressed little enthusiasm for the election -- despite the emergence in the last few weeks of small posters announcing the poll as well as the odd pick-up truck cruising the streets playing songs to encourage people to vote. “I don’t know who I should vote for, so I don’t think I will be voting,” said Than Than Nyunt from her streetside stall selling betel nut. She complained that leaflets for local candidates were simply profiles of individuals. “They didn’t say anything about what they would do for us if they are elected,” she said. China to relax outbound investment restrictions ✪9 LIFESTYLE The subterranean sounds of magic ✪10 2 NATIONAL MYANMAR ELEVEN, Friday, December 26, 2014 Doctors, healthcare workers to help combat Ebola outbreak MYANMAR is planning to send doctors and healthcare staff to Ebola-hit West African countries, said Deputy Director General Dr Soe Lwin Nyein from the Department of Health. The Ministry of Health is selecting the doctors and healthcare staff for that mission, he added. The virus has killed 7,588 people as of December 21, the vast majority in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. A total of 666 health-care workers (HCWs) are known to have been infected with the virus up to the end of December 21, 366 of whom have died, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). According to Soe Lwin Nyein, the medical staff will be sent to Liberia and Sierra Leone where the Ebola outbreak is the highest and both countries are urgently in need of 5,000 healthcare workers and nearly 700 doctors. Other Asean countries are also planning to send healthcare workers to West Africa. “It is not the first time we have sent healthcare workers to other countries. We sent healthcare workers during H5N1 virus outbreak. We will choose the healthcare workers who attended the healthcare programmes related to epidemic in local and overseas countries. We will give additional trainings for those who have been chosen. I cannot tell when they will be sent,” he said. The decision to send healthcare workers to West Africa countries was decided at the Asean Ministerial meeting and WHO has also asked for help from other European countries. The results of the first step of the new vaccine for Ebola Virus in human are satisfactory, according to the WHO. Medical companies and health agencies are trying to produce drugs and vaccines to cure and prevent Ebola virus. They tried sample tests on twenty adults giving some of them high dose and the rest low dose. They discovered that all of them produced the required immune response to combat Ebola virus, said the American National Health Department in November. According to AFP, Sierra Leone’s government yesterday declared a five-day lockdown in the country’s north to step up efforts to contain the Ebola epidemic, while making an exception for Christmas. “Muslims and Christians are not allowed to hold services in mosques and churches throughout the lockdown except for Christians on Christmas Day (Thursday),” Alie Kamara, resident minister for the Northern Region, told AFP. Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are the three nations worst-hit by the epidemic, and Sierra Leone recently overtook Liberia as the country with the highest number of Ebola infections. According to the latest update from WHO, a total of 19,497 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) have been reported. Taking into account the number of cases as a proportion of an affected country’s population, there have been 24 reported cases and 15 reported deaths per 100,000 population in Guinea, 199 cases and 85 deaths per 100,000 population in Liberia, and 157 cases and 45 deaths per 100,000 population in Sierra Leone. PEN Myanmar calls for freedom of speech PEN INTERNATIONAL Ei Thinzar Kyaw MYANMAR ELEVEN A literacy discussion in a train. MYANMAR ELEVEN PEN Myanmar, a group of writers, has called for freedom of speech in its Tuesday announcement. “In some places including Yangon, the township administrators have banned public speeches. That is why we are calling for more freedom of speech,” said Thida (Sanchaung), the chairperson of PEN Myanmar. Throughout the history, the dictators had restricted the freedom of expression and the fivedecade long tyranny censorship had also blindfolded the people, the announcement continues. The state-run media are full of propaganda and have been lobbying for the government’s objectives and policies for many decades. The censorship had overruled the literacy rights and extended the tight grips on the writers till the middle 2012. Along with the political transition, the people have started to enjoy the factual data and information from some independent news agencies. However the state-run media continue to serve as the government’s propaganda mechanism. The announcement urges state organisation not to subju- gate the writers and public speeches as the people only have the rights to disagree. PEN Myanmar is part of PEN International, the organisation devoted to promote freedom among writers. In an announcement posted on PEN International’s website in November, the organisation noted that there have been very few public workshops on creative writing in Myanmar due to the strict state censorship rules. Similarly, interactive panel discussions between writers and readers were very rare. In order to counter this, PEN Myanmar has been organising open, public, interactive panel discussions across Myanmar to encourage dialogue between writers and readers. To reach out to all groups of society, PEN Myanmar organised literary discussions in public places, including on trains, at bus stops and widely distributed the PEN Myanmar newsletter. In addition, PEN Myanmar has recognised the need for writers to be able to communicate with their peers internationally as well as to carry out advocacy around freedom of expression issues before the international community and has therefore started a training session for writers in English. MYANMAR ELEVEN, Friday, December 26, 2014 National 3 NLD statement implicated govt in Letpadungtaung clashes Michaungkan protestors forcibly crack down, fourteen sued MYANMAR ELEVEN Wai Lin Aung MYANMAR ELEVEN Police officers are at the crackdown scene. company operating the Letpadungtaung mine compensate local farmers for the 6,784 acres of seized land and pay for land substitution to farmers after leaving about 1,900 acres of land in the nearby villages vacant or fallow. MP Khin San Hlaing of the NLD, who is also a member of the Letpadungtung Copper Mine Investigation Commission, said: “It has been one year since the implementation committee was formed by the President. It Is clear that the committee could not manage these problems effectively. The clashes erupted because authorities failed to implement the recommendations of the commission that reviewed the project. The final report urges compensation for seized farmland. A woman was shot dead and 40 others were injured in the recent clashes between farmers and the police over fencing in Letpadungtaung copper mine project on December 22. Two more locals were injured on December 23. Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Co (MWMCL) suspended fencing on December 24. A different statement, claiming to be released by the NLD, circulated widely on social media on December 22 and implicated the Letpadungtaung protesters in EMG The National League for Democracy (NLD) released a statement today responding to the recent clashes over the contentious Letpadungtaung copper mine project. The statement holds President Thein Sein and the committee he appointed to monitor the tensions around the mine responsible for the conflict’s latest casualties. According to the NLD statement, a commission was formed to once stigmata the case of the Letpadungtaung copper mine project last year, with NLD chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi as leader of the commission. The investigation commission submitted its final report to the President on March 11, 2013, and the full text of report was made public the following day. The president then appointed a committee to implement the findings of the investigation commission. The NLD claims that the recent injuries and the killing of a local woman protesting against the mine project were made possible by the implementation committee’s failure to fully implement the commission’s suggestions and the police’s failure to execute crowd control and riot control techniques properly. The relevant authorities should deal with this problem with special care by upholding accountability and avoiding acts that may harm people. The NLD would like to urge officials to make a thorough investigation into the case as quickly as possible after taking an account of the rule of law and its impact on peace and stability, the statement says. The investigation commission’s report suggests that the the recent clashes. The NLD’s information officer U Kyi Toe declared it to be a forgery. MWMCL’s fencing project continued into the evening of December 23 with the help of some 100 police officers. Some people from Sede village fled the area to stay with relatives due to a rumour that an arson attack would be carried out against them, according to local people. With regard to the suspension of fencing, a Salingyi Township police officer said: “It is true that the company has stopped fencing. I don’t know when the fencing will resume.” About 50 policemen and plainclothes officers forcibly evicted the protesters from the Michaungkan protest camp at the exit of the Yangon City Hall in a dawn raid on December 23. 14 protesters, mostly women, were detained for a half day at the police station in the West District and were later released after they were charged with violating four sections. “When we met with Police Col Win Bo and other police officers earlier, they promised not to remove the camp by force. But they broke their promise and staged a dawn raid, arresting all the protesters. We are being charged with violating Section 18, 431 and 143. We will fight to get back our land even if we are under threat from the authorities,’’ said Aye Mi, one of the protesters. The Michaungkan protesters were removed on March 30 and 31 from the protest camp beside the Mahabandoola garden, in front of the Yangon City Hall. Later, on December 12, the Michaungkan protesters moved to a new camp at the exit of the City Hall since the authorities failed to resolve the problem. NCCT proposes additional observers to ceasefire talks A proposal for the inclusion of more observers in the next ceasefire talks is aimed at further cementing agreements, said Naing Han Thar, leader of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT). The work coordination meeting between the Union Peacemaking Working Committee (UPWC) and the NCCT which was held in Yangon during December 22-23 and mainly focused on resolving outstanding points of contention in the draft of the ceasefire deal. Both sides also discussed future plans, such as those for constructive talks to avoid the future fights during the ceasefire talks and the formation of a working group for joint monitoring of both sides’ adherence to military rules and regulations. The NCCT has also suggested the inclusion of more observers at the next ceasefire talks. “The NCCT has proposed to include more international observers in the 7th ceasefire Attending the meeting talks. We [the UPWC] have were the Union ministers already agreed with the from the government’s side NCCT in principle to invite Aung Min, Khin Yi, Khin other foreign observers in Maung Soe as well as addition to the UN and the Lt-Gen Thet Naing Win and current observers. We MP Thein Zaw. don’t know which countries “I’d attended the meetthe NCCT will propose. ing for fifth time as No-4 Observers can be invited to Special Military Operation the talks only once both Officer and Union Minister sides have agreed,” said of Border Affairs. Now, I’m Hla Maung Shwe of the UPWC. Some foreign observers joined the recent here as the Union minister because I’ve transferred The next meeting NCCT summit in Laiza. the duty of No-4 Special between the UPWC and Military Operation Officer to es of ethnic groups’ armed forcthe NCCT is scheduled for Lt-Gen Khin Zaw Oo,” said January 15-17. Both sides expect es and the union military. The Lt-Gen Thet Naing Win. talk was postponed from to finalise the ceasefire deal at Some ethnic leaders show November when the army this meeting. doubt on the talk. shelled a Kachinrebel training “Recent events have caused “Unless there is a good camp in the north of the couna decrease in trust between explanation for the attack, it try, killing 23. both sides. We believe that might be very difficult to move Notably, military representafuture agreements will be valid forwards on the peace talks,” tives failed to attend the latest only when there are observers. said Khun Okka, a member of meeting. Both sides should be transparNCCT. Also missing were Naing Han ent,” the NCCT leader said. Yet, after the two-day talks Tha, NCCT’s leader, and second The NCCT wants neighbourare finished, peace negotiators leader-2 Maj Gen Guan Maw ing countries, the US, the UK, from both sides announced that didn’t attend the discussion and Japan and Norway to serve as the nationwide ceasefire accord only a delegation accompanied observers when the nation-wide between the government and by first leader-1 Pha Do Saw ceasefire deal is signed. ethnic armed groups is expectKwe Htoo Win, Dr Sali Hlang The seventh round of talk ed to be signed on February 12 took place despite several clash- Hmone and Col Khun Oakker. EMG Aung Zaw Tun MYANMAR ELEVEN (Union Day) next year. If that happens, political talks will follow in May. They issued a joint statement saying that those points will be brought to the attention of respective leaders for further approval. In the statement, they also agreed to prevent unnecessary problems during the runup to the signing of nationwide ceasefire deal and to hold the next meeting in mid-January. During the meeting, UPWC leader Aung Min said that the ceasefire is important for 2015 since there are many priorities in the year including the election. “We have to discuss not only the internal peace but also the Constitution. It will be like the modern Panglon Assembly.” Both parties are eager for peace. However, we have limited time. Peace process is not only the case to do in 2015 since there will be a general election which has to be free and fair.” The ceasefire agreement, if really clinched, would be the fourth. BUSINESS 4 MYANMAR ELEVEN, Friday, December 26, 2014 Major company absent from top tax payer lists SHWE Ayar Nadi Co Ltd, the creator of Laser Brand Toothpaste, was not included on the list of top taxpayers released by the Internal Revenue Department (IRD) this week. US-based Colgate-Palmolive Co bought Laser Brand Toothpaste from Shwe Ayar Nadi Co Ltd in November for roughly US$100 million. The Internal Revenue Department released separate lists of the country’s 1,000 top commercial tax and income tax payers, as well as the top foreign tax payers and companies that paid taxes late throughout the 2013-14 fiscal year on December 22. Companies that paid a minimum of Ks 10 million were included on the list of 1,000 top tax payers. It is unlikely that Shwe Ayar Nadi Co, which made at least $100 million last fiscal year, failed to pay a mere Ks 10 million in taxes. Before investing in Myanmar, US companies must ascertain whether their local partners pay taxes correctly and properly report courses of income. According to the Directorate of Investment and Companies Administration, Shwe Ayar Nadi Co Ltd, which is registered as Shwe Super Light Co, manufac- tures lemon tea, cereal, coffee mix and a variety of other foodstuffs. Shwe Super Light Co (SSL) was not included on the top tax payers list, it’s affiliate SSL Trading Co was included. SSL Trading Co was ranked 479th on the list of the top 1,000 commercial tax payers after paying less than Ks 50 million. The company was also ranked 656th on the list of the top 1,000 income tax payers after paying less than Ks 50 million. SSL Trading Co’s tax payments are notably less than those of other coffee mix manufacturing companies. Super Coffee Mix Co Ltd was listed among the top foreign tax paying companies for paying between Ks 50 million and Ks 100 million in both commercial and income taxes. Tax payers have complained about the wide discrepancy between the profits earned and taxes paid by large companies in Myanmar. The weakness of tax collectors and the lack of transparency in companies’ income reporting depress the government’s total tax revenues. No official explanation has been offered for the absence of Shwe Ayar Nadi Co Ltd from the top taxpayer lists. Mae Sot-Myawaddy border checkpoint in Thailand’s Tak province. Mae Sot-Myawaddy border checkpoint hours extended THE NATION Myanmar and Thailand have reached an agreement to extend services at the Mae SotMyawaddy border checkpoint by three hours, effective January 1. The checkpoint is usually open from 6am to 6pm, but starting this New Year, its service hours will be from 5.30am to 8.30pm, according to Somchai Hathayatani, governor of Tak Province, Thailand. The governor said the idea was proposed by public and private sector enterprises in the northern border province. Both countries agreed to extend the service hours, as it will help boost cross-border trade between the two countries. “As our Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-O-cha approved the plan, we have already informed all involved parties, including customs officers, to prepare for the extended service,” said Somchai. Somchai said that the service extension will also help the two countries prepare for the upcoming implementation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. He also added that the checkpoint is strategically significant because it serves as Thailand’s gateway to the East. The check- point also the gateway to the East-West Economic Corridor, which connects Southeast Asia to India. The extension will increase the cross-border trade, which is estimated to reach Bt50 million this year. In 2012, the cross-border trade volume at Mae Sot was valued at Bt39 billion, and it increased to Bt46 billion last year. REUTERS Bangkok PUBLIC RELATIONS DEPARTMENT MYANMAR ELEVEN Thailand looking to Japan for SE Asia rail routes Thailand is talking to Japan with a view to building three rail routes in the Southeast Asian country, a Thai minister said on Saturday, the latest move by its military government to kick-start long-delayed plans to modernise its aging rail network. Thailand wants three new lines connecting the capital, Bangkok, with cities in the east, west, north and northeast and Japan had expressed interest in undertaking the work, said Thai Transport Minister Air Chief Marshal Prajin Junthong. His announcement comes a day after Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding with China to construct two separate lines of 867 km (542 miles) in the kingdom, starting in 2016. “We’re still in the process of talks (with Japan). It will be clearer after the Japanese government has finished its election and discussion will be made with both sides,” Prajin told reporters on the sidelines of a regional summit in Bangkok. An overhaul of Thailand’s rail network was proposed long ago but has yet to materialise. The junta wants to start the ball rolling as part of its big infrastructure plans to try to revive an economy blighted by weak spending and exports. Thailand has proposed Japan builds two separate east-west lines, one from Mae Sot at the Myanmar border to Mukdahan near the border with Laos and another connecting Kanchanaburi with the industrialised province of Rayong. A third route would run from Bangkok to the northern city of Chiang Mai, Prajin said. The three routes combined would cover roughly 1,500 km, according to Reuters calculations. Thailand agreed to use Chinese firms and technology to build a 734-km standard-gauge dual track railway from Nong Khai on Thailand’s border with Laos, to its ports and industrial zones in the east. Another line would link Bangkok with the central province of Saraburi about 108 km away. A modern rail network would boost Thai trade and tourism and strengthen China’s strategic foothold in a country with traditionally strong ties with Japan and the United States. Relations with Washington have soured since a coup in May. Japan has long been Thailand’s biggest investor, mainly in car manufacturing and high-tech industries. Like China, Japan has substantial economic interests in the region, in particular, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand. MYANMAR ELEVEN, Friday, December 26, 2014 5 Business 6 MYANMAR ELEVEN, Friday, December 26, 2014 AEC expected to be bright spot amid global challenges Kwanchai Rungfapaisarn THE NATION BUSINESS leaders expect 2015 to be another challenging year because of the global economic uncertainty, but are quite optimistic about regional prospects under the Asean Economic Community (AEC). Prapon Chanasenee, managing director of P-Value Co, a manufacturer of skincare products and supplements, said Southeast Asia was at the top of the list of regions around the world. It has a stable economy and people spend money to enjoy their lives and upgrade their lifestyles. “P-Value suffered a negative impact in the second quarter of this year because it is the lowest season of the year and because the global national economies slowed,” he said. The company posted better sales performance in the other quarters. It will finish this year with double-digit growth. Thailand skincare and cosmetics industry is expected to grow by 7-9 per cent next year, while the supplements market will enjoy higher growth of 15-20 per cent. The factors next year will be both domestic, such as government spending, and the global economy. P-Value’s major dietary supplement brands are So Kool for men, Rosaline for women and Roslim for weight control. The implementation of the AEC next year will open up tremendous opportunities, Prapon said. Thailand is strong in the know-how needed for manufacturing skincare products and supplements. The country has played a leading role in this field longer than neighbouring markets. The company will launch a joint venture in Phnom Penh next quarter, branding and distributing its personal-care products in the Cambodian market. In the next step, the JV will supply hospitals in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville. “The intense competition in the domestic market will also allow all business players in the field of cosmetics, skincare and supplements to step forward to higher development both in manufacturing technology and knowhow and business management,” he said. Chokdee Wisansing, chief operating officer of the food business group at Evolution Capital, said 2014 was a challenging year for the company, like other businesses. “We posted a two-digit drop in the first two quarters from the same period last year. We were able to pick up business in the second half. Our sales for the whole year are slightly below what we made last year,” he said. “However, we have turned the crisis into opportunity. It is a good time for us to revise our strategy and find ways to improve our productivity.” The company recently invested Bt23 million in a 2,000-square-metre central Prason Chanasenee. left, managing director of P-Value Co, together with Agate Tantachon, centre, managing director of Shining Gold Bullion co, and Chokdee Wisansing, right, chief operation officer of the food business group at Evolution Captial are seen visiting The Naton's editorial in Bangkok. kitchen in Ayutthaya’s Wang Noi district that will serve more than 100 restaurants in remote areas. It has also expanded warehouses to reduce its operating and logistics costs. Evolution Capital, listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand, invests in Asia’s rapidly growing consumer markets. It is primarily focused on budget hotels through its investment in Red Planet Hotels, the franchisee and shareholder of Tune Hotels across Asia. It is also in the food and beverage business as a franchisee of Domino’s Pizza in Thailand and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Thailand and Cambodia. It will diversify risks by opening its first Domino’s Pizza in Phnom Penh in the middle of next month and Kyochon, an authentic and trendy Korean fried-chicken restaurant, in the same city next quarter. Chokdee believes the AEC will definitely benefit Thailand’s hospitality industry, especially hotels and restaurants. With regional liberalisation, the country will be able to attract more foreign investors, expatriates and tourists, and that would bring more customers to local businesses. The only obstacle is the shortage of skilled labour required by the local hospitality industry. Those workers need to have a good understanding of the hotel and restaurant businesses. They should know how to develop their skills and be service-minded, he said. Agate Tantachon, managing director of Shining Gold Bullion Co, said Thailand’s gold-ornament market had been affected by the dwindling purchasing power of grass-roots people, who were severely affected by the failure of the rice-pledging scheme of the previous government. “However, we have seen a dramatic increase in the trade of gold bullion. Our sales of gold bullion have jumped fivefold this year,” she said. The wild fluctuations in gold prices attracted middle- and upper-class speculators. The company spent Bt80 million to Bt100 million to expand capacity this year, especially in gold stock and state-of-the-art machinery that was installed in its factory in Pathum Thani’s Lam Luk Ka Klong 6 area. The company supplies 1,500 goldsmith shops throughout Thailand. “We have focused on building our brand for gold ornaments and bullion this year, especially in the Northern and Southern regions of Thailand. We are dealing with potential sales agents for our gold bullion in the South and Northeast,” she said. The company has supplied gold bullion to Laos and Cambodia for the investment market. It is also looking to expand its gold-ornament business into Myanmar in the near future. Shining Gold Bullion posted about Bt8 billion in sales last year. It expects its sales to increase dramatically to between Bt70 billion and Bt80 billion this year and up to Bt200 billion next year, driven by the speculation of individual customers. THL Group wins multi-million US$ contract with EDL VIENTIANE TIMES THL Group will construct 115 kV transmission lines, substations and distribution of electricity to remote rural areas in Huaphan province, in the northeast of Laos. THL Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)/contract with Electricite du Laos (EDL) on December 17, 2014. THL Group is registered in Laos as a Norwegian domestic and foreign investment company and consists of: TH Lao Enterprise & Partners Co, TH Lao Consulting Engineers Co, and TH Lao Construction Engineers Co. THL Group, among several invited international bidders, managed to win the contract with EDL as an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) provider. The scope of THL Group’s EPC contract is to construct 115 kV transmission lines and related substations in Huaphan province. Moreover, THL Group shall include the distribution of renewable electricity to several remote rural villages and districts in Huaphan province. Beyond the Norwegian engineers included in continuation of essential studies of the contractual scope of works, such as Multiconsult AS, with detailed engineering and design, THL Group will employ Lao engineers, Lao certified workers and Lao local workforce only, which THL Group’s management has done in Laos over the previous 14 years, for the optimal benefit of the population of Laos. Lao companies regarding civil work, mechanical work and electrical work will be included in THL Group’s commitments of construction works, supervised by THL Group’s professional Lao engineers. THL Group’s focus is the transfer of the latest innovation and technology, to act as a university, to train and educate Lao engineers and skilled workers to be professional and independent developers of Laos, besides getting Laos out of poverty. The signed contract on December 17 is a construction extension of the existing Xamneua substation with an approximately 145km distance of double circuit 115 kV transmission line to a new 115/22 kV substation in Xiengkhor district. With a new 115/22 kV substation in Xiengkhor district, multiple remote rural areas will receive 22/0.4 kV distribution of renewable generated electricity. In connection with the distribution of 0.4 kV (400 Volt) renewable generated electricity, THL Group shall install KWh meter units to every household of existing district end-users as well. The scope of works is divided into 2 phases, where phase 1 will be the transmission of 115 kV and construction of 115/22 kV substations, and phase 2 will be the distribution of renewable generated electrical energy to remote rural areas. With the rapid development of hydropower renewable and sustainable power generation plants in this eastern area of Huaphan province, the generated electricity grid will be able to connect in to the new THL Group constructed double circuit 115 kV transmission line. The estimated construction completion time of both mentioned phases will be 3-4 years from EPC commencement of phase 1. Phase 2 will commence and partly be implemented during the scope of construction works of phase 1. Professional fulfillments of contractual milestones of the agreed works, international quality of works, international quality of products and international procedures of health, safety and environment, is THL Group’s absolute focus and priority. Besides the contractual distribution of renewable generated electricity to remote rural areas, THL Group will combine a grant development of infrastructure to those areas too. ASEAN+ 7 MYANMAR ELEVEN, Friday, December 26, 2014 Thailand’s fishing industry struggles with its dark side The world’s third-largest exporter of fish and fishery products, Thailand, is facing something of a crisis for its international reputation. The glamorous packaging of Thai seafood in supermarket fridges around the world stands in contrast to the picture that emerged this year of the industry’s abuse of trafficked workers, including 20-hour shifts, beatings and deaths. According to the International Labour Organisation, nearly 17 per cent of workers on Thai fishing boats have experienced forced labour. In June, the United States downgraded Thailand in its annual human trafficking report after revelations of slavery in the supply chain of the shrimp industry. “Withholding meals and lashing with iron rods” were widespread forms of punishment, said Sompong Srakaew of Seafarers Action Centre, an organisation that helps victims. “Some boat workers witnessed the deaths of their fellow crew members. “The international outcry led the military government to announce a series of initiatives to shore up the reputation of its8billion-dollar fishing industry, which employs an estimated 300,000people, although official figures are not available. The most recent plan in November involved sending select prison inmates to work on fishing boats in return for good behaviour. “Convicts can replace illegal migrant workers,” said an official at the Department of Employment. “But this will be done on a voluntary basis.” “There is a significant labour shortage in the fishing industry because no one wants to work in a hard manual labour job that pays very little,” the employment specialist explained, requesting not to be named. On average, workers on fishing boats earn about 200 US dollars per month, less than half of the minimum wage on land. The inmates plan was derided by rights groups in Thailand and abroad. “It would be a human rights atrocity roughly equivalent to sentencing inmates to the death penalty since some boat workers go out and never return,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch (HRW).Among other measures aimed at improving working standards, authorities are working on a database for boat and worker registration. The fisheries department is also working on a system to monitor fishing boats more closely. Relevant ministries and departments have been directed draft Some workers in Rayong. Thailand’s fishing industry has employed a large number of migrant workers. law amendments to protect migrant workers and making the registration process easier for them. “Our main focus is to fight human trafficking and illegal overseas fishing,” said Viriya Sirichai-ekkawat, the president of the Thai Overseas Fisheries Association, part of a coalition of producers including Charoen Pokphand Foods, or CP Foods, Thailand’s largest food export firm. Such plans have not won over the industry’s critics, who believe the problems of Thailand’s huge fishing industry in particular its reliance on illegal labour - may be too entrenched. “The problem with the antitrafficking effort in Thailand is that it too often remains on the policy level and is not implemented vigorously,” said Annette Lyth, a regional project manager for the United Nations Action for Cooperation against Trafficking in Persons(UN-ACT). “There is a significant labour demand in the industry that has not been met” by the legitimate labour market, Lyth explained. “Workers, mostly migrants, are brought by brokers to meet it.” HRW’s Robertson agreed that The Nation Deutsche Presse-Agentur BANGKOK the system seemed to be institutionalised. “Human trafficking appears to be a business model used on the fishing boats,” he said. Industry representatives say it would be impractical to increase the tracking of personnel. “The owners of the boats usually don’t know the origin of the workers,” Viriya said. “Only boats going overseas will require documentation from workers,” he added. The European Commission, which in November warned Thailand about its efforts to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, said it was watching the country “very closely.” “The EU is still concerned about the serious allegations,” said a representative of the European Union delegation in Thailand. “Substantial progress is still needed on a number of important points, notably on enforcement, inspection and prosecution,” she said. The UN has also called for more to be done. “Although Thailand has taken some important steps forward in fighting trafficking, there is still room for improvements,” Lyth said. “We are not seeing significant progress,” Robertson said of the government’s recent efforts. “It is a failure in political will.” Russia economic gloom hurts tourism Viet Nam News The number of Russian tourists arriving in Vietnam is expected to decline at the beginning of 2015, due to the devaluation of the ruble in Russia. On December 16, the Russian central bank raised its key interest rate to 17 per cent from 10.5 per cent and the ruble fell beyond 60 to the dollar. These economic difficulties have affected the spending plans of the Russian people, and it is expected that their travel budgets will be the first to be cut. Nguyen Van Thanh, steering deputy chairman of the Khanh Hoa Tourism Association, told Biz Hub that Russia’s economic downturn has not affected the province’s tourism industry yet, but he predicted next year would be a difficult time for travel firms. “The annual period between November and April is the peak season for Russian visitors coming to Vietnam. This year’s season may not be much affected, but we have to prepare for the following season,” said Thanh. Meanwhile, during his annual press conference on December 18 in Moscow, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin assured Russians that the economic downturn would last only two years, at most. Some travel firms in central Khanh Hoa Province told local media that the number of Russian tourists to Vietnam in December has not decreased, but a number of tours have been cancelled. Nguyen Duc Tan, managing director of Anex Tour Vietnam, told vnexpress.net that, as of December, daily bookings have decreased from 200 to 70-80 per day, a reduction of 60 per cent. Tan said his company set a target of 120,000 visitors from Russia this year, a four-time increase compared with last year, but now he believes it will be difficult to reach this target. Tan explained that a 4-star hotel room in Nha Trang costs a Russian couple US$800, or 28,000 rubles, last year. But now the price has climbed to 49,000 rubles due to the devaluation. “If the number of Russian visitors goes down, travel firms will experience many difficulties. We have to hire an airplane at the same cost, while there are fewer passengers. In order to lure enough passengers, we then have to offer a 50 per cent discount per seat,” said Tan. He also said that the company had discussed discounting the costs of rooms with local hotels and resorts. Following discussions, large hotels agreed to a discount of 25-30 per cent, while smaller hotels might offer 15 per cent reductions. “However, tourist agencies still face difficulties if Russians visitors cancel their tours,” Tan said. He added that visitors often spend two-thirds of their budget for airlines tickets and one-third for hotels. In Thailand, hotels support tourist agencies by reducing room rates from $200 to $70-80 per room, when the country tried to lure visitors during the difficult political crisis. “If Vietnam could do the same, the travel firms may escape difficulaties,” said Tan. Further, the Turkey-based travel firm Pegas Touristik told Khanh Hoa News Online that the company had to offer a 50 per cent discount for those purchasing a recent Vietnamese tour, however, the situation has not shown positive signs. Pegas Touristik has begun a trend, bringing Russian tourists to Nha Trang, with most visitors coming from the Russian Far East. Statistics from the Khanh Hoa Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism show that the number of Russian visitors to the province in the first 11 months this year was 189,234, an increase of 58.6 per cent over the same period last year. A direct flight between Moscow and Cam Ranh International Airport was recently opened to meet the demand of Russian tourists seeking to spend their holidays in the sunny beaches of Nha Trang. Besides the traditional destinations of Nha Trang, southern Binh Thuan’s Mui Ne and Phu Quoc island has also attracted a large number of Russian tourists. ASEAN+ 8 More than 120,000 displaced in Aceh Flooding has displaced more than 120,000 people in parts of Indonesia’s Aceh province, an official said Wednesday. The floods come as the province prepares to mark the 10th anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami on December 26.Seven districts in Aceh have been inundated since Sunday following heavy rain, said Sutopo Nugroho, the spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency. East Aceh and North Aceh districts are the worst hit, with water reaching as high as 4 metres, he said. There have been no reports of fatalities. The confirmed death toll in Indonesia in the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004, was over 130,000 people. The area will mark the anniversary of the disaster on Friday withprayers and a ceremony attended by 35 foreign envoys and 33 aid organisations from around the world. - DPA Rise in number of alcoholics in S’pore The number of alcoholics seeking help may be growing at a slower rate compared with gamblers, but there are still more of them getting treated in recent years. At the National Addictions Management Service (Nams) of the Institute of Mental Health, there were 415 new cases of alcohol addiction between April last year and March this year - an increase of about 13 per cent compared to three years ago. The centre records numbers by its financial year, which runs from April 1 to March 31. Experts attributed the upward trend to increasing levels of stress and the easy availability of alcohol. Dr Munidasa Winslow, an addictions specialist in private practice, said he sees about 20 per cent more patients this year, compared to three years ago. He now has at least 100 new cases a year. - THE STRAITS TIMES Vietnam to move homeless to shelters The Ho Chi Minh City government has urged people not to give money to beggars even as it seeks to take them off streets and put them in shelters. It has asked religious organisations to persuade their followers not to donate money either. But first an attempt will be made to track down the families of beggars and homeless people and send them home. If it does not succeed, they will be sent to the centres starting on Sunday. The social centres have been ordered to accommodate them and provide education, vocational training, and jobs. The People’s Committee said since begging tarnishes the image of the city, the campaign is a vital social task. - VIET NAM NEWS VN to introduce women-only buses during peak hours Viet Nam News The capital city administration plans to operate women-only buses on certain routes during peak hours on trial basis as a move to counter sexual harassment and stealing. It has instructed the Hanoi Transport and Services Corporation (Transerco) to implement this plan. Nguyen Quoc Hung, vice chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee, said at a conference on Tuesday that women-only buses should be introduced in areas where female workers and students were vulnerable to sexual assault. He said the move aimed to combat sexual harassment of women and girls in public transport. A survey of 2,046 people, conducted recently in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City, showed that 57 per cent of the women aged 16 and above felt sexual harassment was most likely to happen on the streets. As many as 87 per cent of the surveyed women and girls said that they had experienced sexual harassment in various forms, including being whistled and stared at, having their physical appearance commented upon and being teased and touched on sensitive parts of their bodies. About 31 per cent of school girls said they’d suffered sexual harassment on buses. The survey was conducted by ActionAid Vietnam and the Research Centre for Gender, Family and Environment in Development. Previously, the National Trafic Safety Committee had asked the city to identify locations, public transport routes and road sections where sexual harassment occurs most often. Lan Phuong, a student of the Viet Nam News GLOBAL BRIEFS MYANMAR ELEVEN, Friday, December 26, 2014 Buses pick up passengers in Ha Noi’s Cau Giay District. Military Medicine Institute, said she had seen female students being harassed on the old route plied by bus No39. “It happened when the bus was overcrowded,” she said. “Everyone will put up with slight touches, but more than that is really annoying.” However, she said, most victims ignored it. Some only turned back and looked angrily at the harasser. Nguyen Viet Trieu, deputy director of Transerco, said that over the past eight months, the corporation’s hotline had received more than 43,000 calls from passengers. Of these just five reported sexual harassment of buses, he said. However, Trieu admitted that overloaded buses during peak hours were likely to be used to pick pockets or sexually harass women. He said the corporation had set up a customers’ service room to receive complaints about service quality from 5am to 11pm. The hotlines of the corporation, the city’s transport department and the police department as well as the corporation’s website were printed on all buses, he said. The corporation would work with the police when it received complaints, he added. Indonesian woman found guilty of drug trafficking Vientiane Times Vientiane People’s Court recently found an Indonesian woman guilty of involvement in a methamphetamine deal which took place in Laos, according to a local newspaper. This is the second such case after a Myanmar national was also charged with a methamphetamine deal involving10 kilogrammes of the drug. The 37-year-old woman was charged at Wattay International Airport in Vientiane on August 18 after officials found 6 kilogrammes of metha mphetamine concealed in her luggage. The Lao Phatthana Daily newspaper did not give more details as to whether she is going to appeal or not or whether she is being held in custody in Laos. Normally, the alleged offender is permitted to appeal the court’s decision within 20 d ays of the verdict being delivered. Vientiane Times made several phone calls to the Indonesian Embassy in Laos on Tuesday, but no one answered. We also sent emails to ask for more details on the case but so far we have not received any response. According to the newspaper, the woman confessed that on August 24, 2013, she became acquainted with a foreign man and they discussed a potential methamphetamine smuggling venture. After reaching an agreement, the man gave her a round trip ticket and US$800 to fly to India, where she received a bag from another man in that country. She later flew to Singapore before catching a flight from Singapore to Wattay International Airport on August 18, where police found 6 kilogrammes of methamphetamine and some foreign currency in her procession. Recently, local newspapers have featured a few headlines about methamphetamine busts even though senior police have rejected the fact that Laos could be a target country for the methamphetamine trade. Philippine court suspends transgender murder trial Deutsche Presse-Agentur Manila (The trial of a US marine accused of killing a transgender woman in the Philippines has been suspended for two months, a prosecutor said Wednesday. The Olongapo City court ordered the pause after US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton asked the justice secretary to review the case, querying the conclusions drawn from witness statements. “A party can always go up to the secretary of justice to review the resolution of the lower prosecution,” prosecutor Emilie delos Santos said in a television interview. Pemberton allegedly strangled Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in a hotel in Olongapo City, 80 kilometres north of Manila, on October 11. He is currently in US custody within a Philippine military base in Manila. In their petition, lawyers for the 19-year-old marine argued that the murder case was full of “unwarranted conclusions” based on testimonies of witnesses who saw him last with the victim, before they checked into the hotel. Laude’s family was “very disappointed and alarmed” at the postponement of proceedings, their lawyer Harry Roque said in as eparate television interview on Wednesday. MYANMAR ELEVEN, Friday, December 26, 2014 9 ASEAN+ China to relax outbound investment restrictions GLOBAL BRIEFS New Beijing airport to be operational in 5 years Beijing will start construction of a new airport in the capital on Friday that will become operational in 2019. The project, which was given final approval by the National Development and Reform Commission last week, will involve nearly 80 billion yuan ($13.1 billion) of investment, making it the costliest project in China’s civil aviation history. The airport is planned to handle 72 million passengers, 2 million metric tons of cargo and 620,000 flights annually after 2025. The new hub, which has not been officially named, will be in Daxing district, 46 km south of Tian’anmen Square. It will be 67 km from Beijing Capital International Airport. It will include four runways, 150 parking aprons for passenger jets, 24 parking aprons for cargo aircraft, 14 maintenance areas and a terminal building with a floor area of 700,000 square metres. - CHINA DAILY Hanoi air capacity to double China Daily China is to ease restrictions on outbound investments to sharpen the edge of Chinese companies overseas as the world’s largest commodity exporter transforms into a net capital exporter. A State Council executive meeting presided over by Premier Li Keqiang decided on Wednesday to streamline procedures for domestic companies to launch overseas listings, mergers and bank openings. This will make fundraising easier for companies planning to operate abroad. A statement issued after the meeting said commercial banks have been encouraged to provide stronger support for exports of major equipment to ensure that all funding requirements for such overseas sales can be met. The government has also scrapped a long-disputed precondition for overseas investment by allowing investors to wire money directly to targeted companies abroad and register their cooperation projects at banks. Under the current regulations, companies must obtain government approval for such deals, even though they have already reached an agreement with foreign firms. Export credit insurance will also be open to more commercial insurance companies. This type of insurance is a risk management product and a means to facilitate international trade, ensuring that businesses receive payment after goods are delivered despite protracted defaults, bankruptcy and other unexpected incidents. This will end the monopoly held by China Export and Credit Insurance Corp, with the aim of reducing insurance fees when competition is introduced. The easing of restrictions comes as many Chinese companies are expanding overseas, with China eager to restructure their sales abroad by including more high-value-added products. China is poised to become a net capital exporter for the first time by the end of the year, when its overseas direct investment is expected to surpass its foreign direct investment. Chinese companies had secured new overseas deals worth $161 billion by November, up by 12.5 per cent year-on-year, with such companies operating overseas employing 17 million workers, more than half of which are foreigners. In a speech to global leaders in November, President Xi Jinping said China will invest more than $1.25 tril- AFP A salesman dressed as Santa Claus waits for customers at the entrance of a shop in Beijing. lion in the next 10 years to realise Beijing’s proposal to build the Silk Road Economic Belt linking Asia and Europe. According to media reports, Ping An Insurance (Group) Co has bought the Lloyds building, a London landmark. Wang Jingyuan, a researcher at the Investment Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission, said the policies announced on Wednesday will enable Chinese companies to be more competitive when it comes to overseas investment. This is because the policies will end uncertainties over regulatory approval, and lengthy waits. Policies were also announced at Wednesday’s meeting to ease government financial difficulties and improve the living conditions of people with disabilities. Phonhong handicraft producers win through finance Vientiane Times Handicraft producers in Nayang village, Phonhong district of Vientiane province have earned extra income from selling their products after gaining access to finance, contributing to improving their livelihoods and family finances. Nayang village in Phonhong district was considered as a poor village in the past and most of the villagers were relocated from other areas. They relied on rice farming, livestock breeding, weaving and traditional handicrafts. Nowadays, most of the villagers’ livelihoods have been improved after they gained access to credit finance, thanks to the Women and Family Development Deposit-Taking Microfinance Institution, commonly known as the WFDF. In the past, local people borrowed money from predatory lenders but they were charged with high interest rates and suffered from debt burden as a result. The Women and Family Development Deposit-Taking Microfinance Institution gave them opportunities to borrow money with appropriate loan rates to breed animals and produce handicraft items. This will help them to stop borrowing money with high interest rates from predatory lenders, said Ms Thongnath Vongphachanh, head of WFDF’s customer centre and handicraft group in Nayang village. The customer centre in Nayang village now has about 70 women members with more than 100 million kip in deposit-taking. Those members form groups of four to five members and they can generate large amounts of income from their handicraft production. “My group comprising some five members can earn over 4 million kip per day from selling handicraft products.” We sell our products in Vientiane and the provinces of Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Champassak. As of today, the WFDF offers services in six districts of three provinces, comprising Hadxaifong and Xaysettha districts in Vientiane; Thaphabath and Borikhan districts in Borikhamxay province; and Phonhong and Sanakham districts in Vientiane province. Its services now extend to cover some 82 villages in the six districts and WFDF now has over 112 customer service centres with a total of 5,250 members. From 2009 to 2014, the Women and Family Development Deposit-Taking Microfinance Institution has disbursed loans of over 40 billion kip (about US$5 million) to the target groups for productive purposes, mainly in trade, production and the agricultural sector. The Women and Family Development Fund (WFDF) of the Lao Women’s Union (LWU) was established in 2009 with the support of the Savings Banks Foundation for International Cooperation (SBFIC). The vision of the WFDF is to become a leading provider of financial services to low income women and their families in Laos. Based on its roots in the LWU, the aim is to combine social responsibility as well as the professional excellence of its staff and at the same time be a model of best practice microfinance institution. Vietnam has started operating anew $900 million airport terminal that will nearly double the capital’s flight capacity, the latest move in expanding what is one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets. Passenger planes took off on Thursday from Noi Bai terminal two, Hanoi airport’s new wing that will handle 10 million passengers per year and up to 15 million in future as demand rises for air travel at home and abroad. Foreign arrivals in Vietnam rose more than 10 percent last year to 7.6 million, government data showed, while domestic demand is climbing amid rapid middle class growth and competition between airlines in a country with under developed rail and road infrastructure. Vietnam is poised to be the world’s seventh-fastest growing market for international passengers during 2013-2017, as a regional open skies initiative takes off and Southeast Asia moves towards an integrated economic community, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). - REUTERS German govt selling two properties in KL for US$64 million The German government is selling the two properties it owns in the heart of Kuala Lumpur for a potential combined worth of 225 million ringgit (US$64.34 million). According to an advertisement in The Star and a local business daily recently, the former residence of the German ambassador in Kia Peng Road and the Goethe-Institut sited in Langgak Golf Road, have been put up for sale by tender by real estate consultants Savills Rahim & Co. A source familiar with the transaction said that the former residence of the German ambassador and the Goethe-Institut are expected to fetch 200 million ringgit and 25 million ringgit, respectively. A spokesperson for the property consultancy said the tender for the properties started on December 15 and would close on January 26. - THE STAR LIFESTYLE 10 MYANMAR ELEVEN, Friday, December 26, 2014 The subterranean sounds of magic MYANMAR ELEVEN for the audience. Since 2009, teen idol Ye Yint Aung has made a name for himself as a much sought-after R&B artist in Myanmar’s vibrant underground music scene, with a string of hit albums under his belt. These include “A Mone Diary” (“Hate Diary”), a duo album with Thar Thar, and several compilation albums. But none of these can be called his own solo material. In the run-up to Christmas, the singer was busy finishing up his solo debut, “Tha Wai Htoe Kha Gwei Ya Pint”, which was eventually released on Christmas Day as a gift for his fans. He takes time out to talk to the Myanmar Eleven about the new album, his musical journey and his foray into the film world. Since you love hip-hop music, why have you crossed over to R&B? I have always wanted to be a hiphop artist since I was young after listening to hip-hop music. But when I write a song, I could only compose its melody, not its lyrics. Actually I couldn’t write rap lyrics. When I sing, my voice is more suitable with the melody. So I ended up singing the melodies. Later I started learning about R&B and ended up singing R&B tunes. The audience also prefers me to sing R&B. I have just started singing hip-hop really. How did you come up with the title of your debut album? Originally I wanted to call it “Chay”, but it’s a little too common. At that time, I saw a phrase in one of the old photos of my grandfather. So I decided to name it “Tha Wai Htoe Kha Gwei Ya Pint”. How long did it take to put together this album? It took over a year. At first, I wanted to release this album on my birthday. But I was busy touring other cities and composing songs for others. My fans have been asking when my own album will be released. I only started focusing on this album three or four months after turning down concert-tour offers and cutting down on my activities. Tell us about your album. Any artists featured on it? Yes. Thar Thar, ASH, Lil-Z, X-Box and Ni Ni Khin Zaw are featuring on my album, which has 12 songs. I composed most of the songs. The album features some special songs How did you become the lead actor in a film being produced by Bo Bo Entertainment? Ko Bo San gave me an offer to act in this film. I decided to accept it as I’m already friends with Ko Bo San. Also, this is a ‘fancy’ romance among students. Other cast members are also my friends so I decided to accept it. I hear filming starts next month. Do you feel under pressure as this is your first film role? Yes. I used to act in music videos only. I have never done acting in films before. I’m a little worried. This is my first film and I play the leading role so it’s quite a big responsibility. Do you see yourself juggling two different hats down the line as a musician and an actor? I love singing and I’m crazy about music. I’m also interested in acting, but it’s up to the circumstances really. It’s too early to say whether or not I will pursue a career in acting. I’ve only accepted this offer because I want to get some experience while working together with my friends. I don’t know if I will take offers to act in other films. ASEAN FOCUS VIENTIANE TIMES Cultural performances from Yunnan province of China at the National Conference Hall on Wednesday night were a resounding success, being warmly received by the local and foreign audience and helping to promote cultural exchange. The live show was hosted by the Cultural Division of Yunan province through a collaboration between the Embassy of China in the Lao PDR and the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism. The performers from Yunnan put on 13 different acts that featured singing, dancing, acrobat- Cultural performances enhance friendly relations ic and magic shows in front of high ranking officials of Laos and foreign ambassadors as well as Lao and Chinese people who came to add to the entertaining atmosphere in the hall. Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Prof Dr Bosengkham Vongdara, Chinese Ambassador to the Lao PDR Mr Guan Huabing, officials and foreign ambassadors attended the event. The mixed audience of dignitaries was enthralled with the performances that introduced their special culture to Lao people as well as providing entertainment for Chinese people living here. The peacock dance which comes from the Leu ethnic group was the beautiful curtainraiser, followed by the hula-hoop dance. Solo singing performances came next with songs by “Khuamhak Mahadsachan” and “Kinhom Yamkangkheun” describing the love and friendship that exists between Laos and China as well as between the two peoples. The nail dance then showed the audience the beautiful dance culture of Leu people that in days gone by used to be performed in palaces followed by magic acts given by famous Chinese magicians that riveted the attention of the audience. Dance performances by Kading An Berkban of the Hani ethnic group, “Dokmali” from the Han ethnic group, with performances of both Lao and Chinese traditional music, added greatly to the overall entertainment the audience so obviously enjoyed. EMG Teen idol Ye’ Yint Aung The performance of the Lao song “Dok Cham Pa” by the Yunnan artists brought wild applause from the appreciative audience. One member of the audience, Ms Phonevilay, a student at Chomphet secondary school said the cultural performances were great and she was really happy she had the chance to watch the show as it was her first experience of the art and culture of Yunnan province, and she was overwhelmed by the beautiful performances, especially the peacock dance. She expressed her great appreciation of the performers and said that if she has the chance to see this show again she certainly will.
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