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Myanmar Postcard - Our Top Picks for September 2018

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Summary: Welcome to the ninth edition of our monthly Myanmar update in 2018. We have distilled the top news items into this summary 'speed read'.

Condominium Registration Offices established

Last month, Condominium Registration Offices were established across the country pursuant to Notification 277/2018 dated 14 September 2018 (the “Notification”) issued by the Myanmar Ministry of Construction. The Notification also appointed Registrars, who can register the purchase of condominiums which meet the requirements in the Condominium Rules.

Developers and purchasers will welcome this development as Myanmar moves towards a system which gives them the ability to register the titles to the condominium units.

Please refer to our December 2017 Myanmar Postcard for more information on the Condominium Rules and contact us if you would like to receive an English translation of the rules.

Ban on imported alcohol

The Government has announced a ban on the sale of imported alcohol brands as part of a crackdown on the sale of counterfeit alcohol in Myanmar.

Currently there are light restrictions on the import of alcohol in Myanmar. In 1996 the Ministry of Home Affairs began issuing FL-12 licences to retailers enabling them to sell imported alcohol.

On September 29 and 30 FL-12 licence holders were informed that they would no longer be able to sell imported liquor. The ban was introduced because the Department of Consumer Affairs received two reports of FL-12 licence holders selling dangerous counterfeit alcohol.

Retailers who are found guilty selling foreign alcohol face three years in prison and confiscation of their goods.

Yangon Stock Exchange Update

U Yin Zaw Myo, managing director of the Yangon Stock Exchange ("YSX") stated that rules which would allow foreigners to hold shares in the public companies listed on the YSX are expected before the end of the year.

YSX currently has five companies listed namely First Myanmar Investment, Myanmar Thilawa SEZ Holdings, Myanmar Citizens Bank, First Private Bank and TMH Telecom. It has been reported that at least three other companies are preparing to list on the exchange.

On 9 September 2018 “YSX Expo 2018” was held to help promote the YSX. The event was attended by representatives of the five listed companies, securities companies, professional advisers as well as current and potential investors and was aimed at increasing the number of individual investors. Mr Takao Ochi, State Minister for Financial Services of Cabinet Office of the Government of Japan delivered the key note speech. He described the YSX as the "Symbol of Japan - Myanmar friendship" and outlined further collaboration between Japan and Myanmar to developed the exchange.

Rakhine State Update

Mrs Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”), confirmed in a statement that she has decided to proceed to the next phase of the preliminary examination process and to carry out a full-fledged preliminary examination of the current humanitarian situation in Rakhine State. This statement follows the decision by Pre-Trail Chamber of the ICC, that the ICC may exercise jurisdiction over Myanmar in respect of the alleged deportation of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh. The statement also explained that a preliminary examination is not an investigation but a process of examining the information available in order to reach a fully informed determination on whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation pursuant to the criteria established by the Rome Statute.

Myanmar has so far rejected ICC’s jurisdiction over this matter. This position was reiterated again by U Kyaw Tint Swe, Union Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor, at the General Debate of the 73rd United Nations Generally. He said, ICC has “no jurisdiction over Myanmar whatsoever” as Myanmar is not a signatory to the Rome Statue. His statement also outlined some of the efforts which has been taken in Rakhine to address the situation. The full statement can be accessed here.

Union Tax Lax 2018-19

2018-2019 Union Tax Law (“UTL”) was enacted on 25 September 2018 and became effective on 1 October 2018. The version in Myanmar can be accessed here.

Under the UTL, the tax year for the State-owned Enterprises is aligned with the financial year (1 October) while the tax year for all other tax payers remain the same (i.e. 1 April to 31 March of the following year).

One of the key changes introduced by the UTL is under the Specific Good Tax regime. The UTL increased the rates for cigarettes, cheroots and alcohol.

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