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Published by The Myanmar Times

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Published by: The Myanmar Times on Dec 09, 2013
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Quarto reopens as trial begins
QUARTO Products is set to resume deliveries this week, more than a month after it was shut down amid a Ministry of Commerce audit, and food and beverages worth an estimated K600 million  were confiscated.The company’s managing director is also on trial for allegedly importing the items, including a significant quantity of wine, without a licence and illicitly using licences from hotels to import alcohol on Quarto’s behalf. The trial opened on November 22 and the next hearing will take place on December 4.The company’s lawyer, U Aung Than Soe, told
 The  Myanmar Times
 on November 29 that Quarto’s managing director will contest the allegations by arguing that the products that the company imported had been approved  by customs without any declaration for a recent food and beverage exhibition, while others were imported legally using a hotel licence.He said Quarto should have applied for an Open General Licence, or OGL, for the items,  which allows companies to import items for display in an exhibition.“They didn’t know they had to apply for an OGL for an exhibition.
09 5000 613
The government will amend rules issued under the new Foreign Investment Law in coming months based on feedback from ministries.
Investment rules set for overhaul
Customs officials in Bago Region confiscated illegally imported items  valued at more than K5 billion in the first six months of the financial  year, after setting up a checkpoint at Nyaung Khar Shae in Waw township on the highway between Yangon and the border town of Myawaddy.
Govt silent as last Comrade passes
No serving government officials passed on their condolences to the family of Bo Ye Htut, the last of Myanmar’s 30 Comrades who passed away on November 27.
Daw Suu and the home front
 As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was feted during her  Australian tour last week, questions continued to be asked about her ability to satisfy the aspirations of the country’s minority groups.
 Just 30 companies bid in O&G tender
Fewer than half of the 61 prequalified companies have submitted bids in an offshore energy tender, the Ministry of Energy said last week.
After 100 years, photos come home
 An exhibition pairs photos of Myanmar taken 100 years ago with recent pictures – highlighting both similarities and differences  between the two eras.
DECEMBER 2 󰀭 8, 2013
Eleven site “hacked”, for sale
The English-language version of the
Myanmar website went offline briefly last week, with all signs pointing to the news group not having renewed its domain hosting package.Those trying to visit their page were redi-rected to the
 hosting site that declared the domain name up for grabs and asked “do you want to buy this page?” The answer to that question was, of course, yes.
Page 2 
 tried to purchase the domain, but to no avail: it had been reserved for renewal by its rightful owners. A member of staff at
 attributed the hiccough to the site having been hacked.
Myanmar inches ahead
Myanmar’s Ministry of Commerce has an-nounced it is preparing to do away with the imperial standard and adopt the metric or, some would say, “more logical” unit as the nation’s official system of measurement, in order to streamline exporting processes and international trade. Indeed, it is truly a mark of the momentous economic shift the country is experiencing at present. The decision will leave just two countries in the world still operating on imperial: the United States and Liberia.
Unruly tourists wreak havoc in Bagan
Tourism police in Bagan have voiced concerns that tourists are “breaking the rules”, sleeping and climbing in the ancient pagoda archaeologi-cal zone.While the hotels industry is struggling to meet the demands of a bumper tourist season, it’s unlikely room shortages are so dire that people are driven to sleep in the ruins for any reason other than ungodly bus arrival times and a desire to catch the sunrise before check-in.Calls for greater enforcement might not be unfounded, however, with some locals worried about tourists climbing the zone’s less-sound structures – a gripe borne of concern for herit-age value, as well as (presumably) a growing weariness of patching up adventurous Germans.Monitoring the archaeological zone is no small task, and there is always the added worry of visitors taking items away from the site. A Reddit.com user recently posted a picture of a small tablet with the Buddha carved into it, saying they “found it” in Bagan, took it home and wanted to get a translation on its possibly ancient inscription.
“I was an opposition leader myself for four years; I know  that that position has some exhilarations and some  frustrations”
– Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott likens his time at the helm of the Liberal Opposition to Aung San Suu Kyi’s own struggles, during her visit to the country last week.
Moe Set Winefor
 Photo: Htet Aung Kyaw (Studio HAK)
The local lowdown & best of the web
Advertisement for now-discontinued Flying Golden Tiger cheroots. Year unknown.
 When Myanmar  was Burma...
 Archival material provided by Pansodan Gallery
“Shave”: a street art series that has sprung up around downtown Yangon.
Photo: Greg Holland
online editor
Kayleigh Long
Page 2
 After wowing the crowd with her singing skills, La Min Nge (pictured)  was awarded the title of Miss Rainbow Ribbon by a panel of judges in Mandalay on November 23. The beauty pageant,  which was open only to members of the transgender community, attracted 42 entries.
 Photo and cap: Khin Su Wai 
Quarto resumes sales as imports trial begins
“But they applied for FDA approval on the same day the mobile team confis-cated their products,” he said.He said Quarto had never been in legal difficulties before and was in the top 100 taxpayers in Myanmar in re-cent financial years. He said it was also unclear why the ministry was not consistent in its approach to items that have allegedly  been illegally imported through bor-der areas and shipping.“I don’t understand why the mo- bile team has an education period un-der which they do not take action but for overseas trade they don’t offer an education period.” He also questioned where the in-formation came from that prompted the raid on Quarto’s Hlaing township  warehouses, from which 30,000 bot-tles of wine and 2400 cans of beer  were confiscated. “The [informant] might be a competitor of Quarto. But maybe it’s just bad luck; Quarto is not the biggest company [in the sector] and others are still operating.” An official from the Ministry of Commerce’s Illegal Trade Prevention and Supervision Control Committee said the background or motivation of informants is not taken into account.“We officially announced in the paper that anybody can give us infor-mation so we don’t consider whether they are competitors,” he said.The official said the ministry had introduced a green channel to speed up the importation process for trad-ers, who had complained that inspect-ing all items took too long.“But just because something has  been brought through the green chan-nel by a trader it does not mean it has  been legally imported,” he said.
 Alcohol import reforms planned
The Myanmar Times
 has previ-ously reported, the temporary closure of Quarto – a major distributor of food and beverages to hotels and restau-rants – the seizure of its stock and the arrest of its managing director have sent shockwaves through the sector. The raid appeared to focus mostly on the company’s wine products and following the raid some wine distribu-tors temporarily closed following the Quarto raid, while others left import-ed goods uncollected at Yangon port. It also prompted calls for an overhaul of alcohol import rules, which cur-rently allow only hotels and duty-free shops to import alcohol, including  beer, wine and spirits.Following the raid, the Ministry of Commerce announced it was consid-ering liberalising alcohol imports. The official said ministry representatives met hoteliers and alcohol distributors last week in an effort to gather feed- back from the sector. Over the coming months the ministry plans to relax rules on wine imports and then pro-ceed to liquor and finally beer, he said.“We will likely issue import per-mits in December, although we have not made any firm decisions yet and can’t say exactly when the policy will  be implemented.He said the ministry broadly plans to liberalise trade rules in a bid to combat illegal trade, which costs the government millions of dollars a year in lost revenue.
Trade clarity needed
The general manager of one hotel in  Yangon said ministry officials met rep-resentatives from foreign investment hotels on November 21 to discuss import rules. “They said they were clamping down on illegal trading,” he said. “The reason for the meeting  was not [the audit of] Quarto, it was to explain the import rules ... We were told to follow the rules but it’s still not clear what the rules are.”Importing wine on a hotel licence “was a common practice for everyone, so we’re confused about why some have been raided and others not. I think that’s the main concern.“The other thing is that these prod-ucts are not coming in on the back of an elephant. They’re being shipped in, in containers, and going through cus-toms. So how are they getting in?”Jeremy Rathjen, the vice president of consulting firm Thura Swiss, agreed that the Quarto incident highlighted the lack of clarity over trade rules. “The real issue is that there is so much ambiguity in the trading sector – people don’t know what is legal or not and that is a problem. If that were clarified, if the government were to come out and say this is illegal but very clearly and evenly apply that, I think people would be satisfied,” he said.
The Heineken connection
Speculation is widespread in the in-dustry that the company’s problems stem from an anticipated foray into  beer distribution, although there is lit-tle concrete evidence to support this. Quarto is believed to have been in ne-gotiations with Asia Pacific Breweries to distribute Heineken until the inter-national firm’s factory, which is due for completion at the end of 2014, is up and running. The factory is being  built by APB Alliance Brewery, a joint  venture between APB and Alliance Brewery Company.Quarto refused to comment on the Heineken connection, although the Heineken logo was prominently dis-played on its booth at the MyanFood ’13 exhibition, which was held in Yan-gon in early November.  A Singapore-based spokesperson for APB told
 The Myanmar Times
 last  week that it had worked with Quarto in recent months to hold an Oktober-fest event but the cooperation had not  yet gone any further. “So far we’ve really only had a rela-tionship in terms of that one event. We haven’t got an arrangement other than that,” the spokesperson said. “We’re  very much in the early stages in our re-lationship … We haven’t got anything formal in place and in the early stages of coming into the market.”It would not be APB’s first foray into Myanmar. In 1995 it established Myanmar Brewery Limited with army-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL).
Food shortage continues
Despite the anticipated reopening of Quarto this week, the shortage of high-end imported food products is likely to continue. A price list sent to customers on November 25 contained only 46 items, including blackcurrant  jam from Austria and sushi rice from Japan. A spokesperson for the compa-ny declined to comment except to say it “will be able to distribute again this coming Monday [December 2] latest”.“There has been a shortage of products and we even had to send people abroad to buy some things,” said Thomas Henseler, general man-ager of the Governor’s Residence. “It’s not a problem for wine because we can store it for a long time. But for 300 grams of caviar, 5 kilograms of Wagyu  beef, a special spice, French raw milk and cheese, and so on – this is what is hurting us right now.”
Mobile team rakes in revenue
 A MOBILE customs team seized more than K5 billion of illegal goods at a Bago Region checkpoint on the Yan-gon-Myawaddy route in the first half of this financial year, officials said.The haul from the Nyaung Khar Shae checkpoint in Waw township came between April 1 and September 30. Located 16 kilometres (10 miles) from Waw, the checkpoint is the main site for mobile teams to intercept goods destined for Yangon that were illegally imported from Thailand at Myawaddy. “By taking action against illegal trade, the country’s trade volume dropped last month but it rebounded again this month,” said U Thein Tun Oo, deputy director of the Bago Region mobile team. “We will keep taking ac-tion against illegal trade to increase le-gal trade volume … this financial year.”Most of the seized items are con-sumer goods, electronic devices, agri-cultural materials and medicines that cannot be legally imported, are sub-standard or lack proper documenta-tion to show import duties have been paid, said U Yin Htwe, head of a mo- bile team at Nyaung Khar Shae. In the first quarter of the 2013-14 financial  year, the team uncovered an average of 84 cases a month, but that fell to 62 cases in the second quarters.
 – Nyan  Lynn Aung, translation by Zar 
 Zar Soe

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