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Posts Tagged ‘Brunei’

17th August 2013

In previous postings on this blog the issues related to same sex marriage in the United States, and the immigration benefits connected thereto have been discussed. However, discussion about how same sex marriage is viewed in the eyes of the law in Thailand has been comparably brief. As of the time of this writing, there would seem to be a growing movement to legalize same sex unions in Thailand following a recent case involving two same sex partners who attempted to register their union in Thailand in much the same manner as different-sex couples. To quote directly from the Asia Times website:

Last year, Nathee Theeraronjanapong (55) and his partner Atthapon Janthawee (38) decided to make their 20-year relationship legal. Citing section 1448 of Thailand’s Civil and Commercial Code, which deems same-sex marriage unlawful, the head of registrations in Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai handed the couple a letter of denial…

An English translation of Section 1448 of the Thai Civil and Commercial Code reads as follows:

A marriage may take place only when the man and woman have completed their seventeenth year of age. But the Court may, with appropriate reason, allow them to marry before attaining such age.

In much the same way that Section 3 the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) only Federally recognized marriages between a man and a woman (notwithstanding the fact that some States recognized such unions) the governing laws of the Kingdom of Thailand only recognize marriage as a union between two people of the opposite sex. Notwithstanding the law’s view of this issue, it should be noted that the Kingdom of Thailand remains one of the most tolerant jurisdictions in Asia when it comes to issues of race, religion, creed, and sexuality. Thailand has a significant and thriving LGBT community and even in the workplace the sexual preferences of employees are considered personal matters. This stands in stark comparison to the atmosphere in other Asian countries and even other jurisdictions within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). To quote from the website of Inter Press Service News Agency:

Sodomy is criminalised in six member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – namely, Brunei, Burma, Malaysia and Singapore, as well as Marawi City in the Philippines and the South Sumatra Province of Indonesia.

At a very early stage compared to other nations around the world (including the United States), in 1956 Thailand repealed the law making sodomy illegal thereby permitting intimate consensual relationships between consenting adults of the same sex. This decision placed Thailand among the most progressive nations in Asia (and the world) on the issue of LGBT equality.

However, it would appear that implementing policies to allow same sex marriage in Thailand is a more daunting endeavor. Many outsiders view Thailand as having a somewhat laissez-faire, perhaps even libertarian view, on social issues. In fact, many Thais are very conservative in their opinions, especially Thais of the older generations. This is not to say that such people are intolerant as many Thais maintain very conservative personal opinions while simultaneously remaining tolerant regarding the decisions and life choices of others (a dichotomy which makes Thailand such a wonderful and interesting place to live). However, this dichotomy must be taken into consideration by those pressing for changes to the Thai marriage laws as the Inter Press News Agency noted:

Danai Linjongrat, executive director of the Rainbow Sky Association, has been urging caution in the drafting of the civil union bill, so that it will not inadvertently fan the flames of intolerance and heighten regional stigmatisation of the LGBTIQ community. “We are looking for a bill that equalises all relationships,” he told IPS. “For example, the current marriage law grants heterosexual couples the right to marry once they reach the legal age of 17, but for LGBTIQ people the legal marriage age would be 20 years old.”

This blogger feels that it is likely that the rules regarding registration of marriage for same sex couples in Thailand will change at some point in the future. As the younger generation grows older it stands to reason that many will feel that the current legal prohibitions on same sex marriage are antiquated. Furthermore, Thai lawmakers often maintain a deep sense of pragmatism when it comes to issues which may impact tourism and foreign capital investment in the country. Should same sex marriages be permitted in Thailand, the already large LGBT tourism sector would likely grow due to others from Asia (and around the globe) traveling to Thailand to register their marriages. Also, those foreign nationals with a Thai same sex spouse would be more likely to bring their assets to a jurisdiction which recognizes their union as such a jurisdiction would provide ancillary benefits regarding issues such as estate planning, healthcare decision making, and taxation. Although LGBT equality is a human rights issue and not strictly one of economics, the economic component of the same sex marriage debate is one that lawmakers are likely to take seriously. The conclusion of the same sex marriage debate in Thailand remains to be seen, but a rational debate of this issue in Thailand is a good start.

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15th August 2013

In a recent press release from the United States Department of State, Daniel R. Russell, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, discussed the recent anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the interaction between the ASEAN economies and that of the United States. To quote directly from the recent press release posted on the State Department website:

As the Secretary noted in a statement last week on August 8, the anniversary of ASEAN’s founding, the United States is deeply committed to supporting and partnering with ASEAN…ASEAN is growing in importance. The ten ASEAN countries include two close U.S. treaty allies, valuable security partners, thriving democracies, and Muslim majority nations that are both moderate and influential. ASEAN represents the United States’ fifth largest trading partner and our fourth largest export market. Following U.S. accession to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in 2009, and in a clear sign of our support for ASEAN, the United States became the first non-ASEAN country to establish a dedicated Mission to ASEAN in Jakarta in June 2010…

Those interested in reading this press release in detail are encouraged to click on the hyperlink noted above.

The United States government is clearly intent on increasing ties with the ASEAN region as the economies have such a significant impact upon the American economy. Meanwhile, many of the countries in ASEAN, including the Kingdom of Thailand, have long standing ties buttressed by cooperation politically, militarily, and economically . In short, the US-ASEAN relationship is a “win-win” for all concerned. The remarks noted above, were followed up by references to the upcoming implementation of a more integrated ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which is due to become a reality in 2015. To quote further from the aforementioned press release:

The ASEAN-U.S. partnership is grounded in cooperation across political, security, and cultural spheres. Our engagement with ASEAN has led to tangible results in such areas as maritime security, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief. Our work through the Lower Mekong Initiative has led to positive outcomes supporting the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 and development in the Lower Mekong sub-region. And the United States is committed to capacity building for the ASEAN Secretariat…

As the date for ASEAN economic integration draws increasingly close, the countries which comprise ASEAN (Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam) would appear to be waiting with bated breath to ascertain whether or not the transition will be a smooth one. It is this blogger’s opinion that the ASEAN Economic integration will in fact turn out to be a rather seamless transition as a great deal of time and effort has been expended by all parties to analyze possible problems and implement solutions prior to the integration itself. The United States has shown (through frequent Presidential visits to the ASEAN region as well as policies which provide support for ASEAN’s initiatives) that it is committed to not only engaging the ASEAN region, but also assisting in creating a mutually beneficial framework for US-ASEAN relations in the future.

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9th August 2013

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the regional bloc which includes Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, celebrated it’s 46th birthday. To quote directly from the website thepeninsulaqatar.com:

DOHA: Ambassadors of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Qatar were in accord, saying Asean will meet its target to integrate the 10 nations’ economies by end of 2015, as they celebrated the 46th Asean Day yesterday at the Vietnam Embassy…Singapore Ambassador Wong Kwok Pun cited some areas that Asean has made progress on the implementation of the Asean Charter. In particular, he pointed out Asean has made headway on disputes settlement mechanism, has been working towards the implementation of the roadmap for the Asean community, and taken big steps toward an integrated and sustained economic development…

The implementation of policies which would create an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) has been an oft-discussed topic among business and legal professionals throughout Southeast Asia. This issue is such a significant topic because by creating a unified Southeast Asian marketplace the countries which comprise ASEAN would become one of the largest markets in the world virtually overnight. That stated, there is a great deal of debate as to whether or not the transition into a unified market will occur smoothly. Some argue that the disparate laws, regulations, and policies throughout the ASEAN member states will not easily coalesce into a workable framework for businesses to operate in the region until governments in ASEAN can implement local policies to bring their regulations in line with the other ASEAN nations. On the  other hand, some argue that because ASEAN leaders have adopted a slow approach to integrating the ASEAN economies the nations which comprise this trading bloc will be able to integrate within the larger body relatively quickly.

Of further concern to both foreign nationals as well as nationals from ASEAN member nations is the promulgation of a single ASEAN visa scheme. Presently, there is not a single visa which one can obtain which would allow the bearer to travel unfettered throughout the the whole of ASEAN. However, leaders in some of the ASEAN countries are looking to remedy this. To quote from the website aseanvisa.com:

Ministers and tourism authorities of the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Indonesia have expressed their intention to collaborate with relevant government agencies and other stakeholders to facilitate travel in the region by developing a common smart visa system…According to www.smartvisa.travel, a smart visa is a digital paperless substitute for a traditional visa that can be obtained by a traveler from a travel agent or participating airline…

Clearly, steps are being taken to create some sort of travel document which would provide immigration benefits in multiple ASEAN nations simultaneously. The impetus behind the push for a single ASEAN visa seems to stem from two sources. First, many of the ASEAN nations would appear to view an ASEAN visa as a means of increasing tourism throughout ASEAN. This would appear to especially be a concern to officials in those Southeast Asian nations which do not benefit from high tourism as compared to their other ASEAN counterparts. By creating a visa which allows for access to more than one ASEAN jurisdiction tourist travel to some countries might increase as travelers are no longer deterred in making “side trips” to less popular destinations due to a desire to avoid the need to obtain another visa. Another consideration would appear to be business travel, as ASEAN economic integration continues to gather steam it stands to reason that more foreign nationals will need to visit multiple ASEAN jurisdictions in order to conduct business in the region. By implementing policies to provide for a single ASEAN visa, business travel may increase throughout the region.

The aforementioned article also mentions the recent decision by Thai and Cambodian Immigration authorities to provide a unified visa scheme for travelers wishing to visit those two countries. To quote further from the aseanvisa.com article:

It [the single ASEAN visa scheme] also builds on the single visa scheme for tourism travel between Cambodia and Thailand, which was implemented on January 1, 2013. Progressive relaxation and an Asean common visa would also benefit non-Asean nationals who intend to visit the Asean countries…

One can speculate whether or not the Thai-Cambodian visa scheme mentioned above will one day be consolidated into a pan-ASEAN visa scheme. There are certainly arguments as to the benefits of such an integration, most notably the probable increase in tourism to all of the ASEAN nations. However, one thing remains clear: it appears that virtually all leaders of the ASEAN nations are assiduously studying the ramifications of a single ASEAN visa scheme and should their findings prove that such a scheme would be a benefit to all of ASEAN; then it is likely that such a scheme will eventually come into existence.

For related information please see: Thailand visa.

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2nd September 2012

It is interesting to note that apparently Mainland China and Taiwan have signed an agreement streamlining currency and banking transactions occurring between these two jurisdictions, to provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the Channel News Asia website, ChannelNewsAsia.com:

TAIPEI: Taiwan and China on Friday signed a deal paving the way for Taiwanese banks to take Chinese yuan deposits and make yuan loans, in the latest agreement to boost trade between the former arch-rivals. The memorandum of understanding outlines the new arrangement, known as direct yuan clearing, which is expected to come into force in 60 days, Taiwan’s central bank said…The deal will also allow Taiwanese companies to issue yuan bonds and sell yuan-denominated investment products on the island, Taiwan’s central bank said…

Readers are encouraged to click the hyperlinks noted above to read this article in detail.

It will be interesting to see whether the promulgation of the provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding noted above will effect the the economies of these two jurisdictions as it could be argued that these changes will foster greater synergy between these two markets which are both very strong in their own right.  This information is noted at the same time that there is speculation that the countries comprising the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) may be the destination for future growth and investment. To quote from the website of the Vancouver Sun, VancouverSun.com

A growing number of U.S. companies plan to shift some operations from China to Southeast Asia in the next two years…a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore showed…According to AmCham Singapore, 92 percent of the executives surveyed said they were positive about investment opportunities in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN – a regional grouping that comprises Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei. ”ASEAN is not only a vital U.S. trade and investment partner, it is a bright spot in the global economy,” said AmCham Vice President Tami Overby.

Please click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this article in detail.

Clearly it remains to be seen whether resources, financial or otherwise, will be shifted away from China in favor of ASEAN. In fact, it could be argued that there may simply be growing investment and positive economic activity in the region as a whole which would benefit both regions. In any case, notwithstanding a rather stagnant global economic environment, China and the Nations comprising ASEAN would seem clearly poised for growth in the future.

 

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1st August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the current Attorney General of the sovereign State of New York is challenging the Constitutionality of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) on the grounds that it violates the 5th and 10th Amendments of the United States Constitution. In order to provide insight into these developments it is necessary to quote directly from an article posted to the website Patch.com:

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed court papers charging that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional on a number of fronts, including an “unprecedented intrusion” on the right of states to regulate marriage. DOMA, passed in 1996, has been under heightened scrutiny since the Obama administration announced in February that it would no longer uphold the part of the law that bars the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages…In a brief filed in the case Windsor v United States of America, Schneiderman argued that DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment by failing to provide equal rights to all Americans and the Tenth Amendment by impeding the right of states to regulate marriage.

Readers are asked to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this article in full.

Frequent readers may recall that Representative Jerrold Nadler has rather recently introduced legislation colloquially referred to as the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) which attempts to rectify the current legal discrimination faced by those who have entered into a same sex marriage. The RFMA would provide federal “certainty” to validly licensed State sanctioned same sex marriages which would presumably allow federal protection for marital benefits regardless of the geographic location of a same sex married couple. Meanwhile, those same sex bi-national couples who are currently separated from their loved ones due to the discrimination which currently prohibits same sex couples (even those validly married in a State jurisdiction) from receiving visa benefits for their foreign spouse in the same manner as those who seek a K-1 visa, CR-1 visa, or an IR-1 visa. Representative Nadler has also introduced legislation to specifically rectify discrimination in an immigration context in the form of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). It has long been this blogger’s opinion that inter-jurisdictional issues pertaining to same sex marriage will ultimately be resolved in the US Courts, but a final resolution has yet to present itself.

In matters related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), it was recently noted that diplomatic progress has been made with respect to negotiations pertaining to the South China Sea. In order to provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of the Japan Times, JapanTimes.co.jp:

KANEOHE, Hawaii — Last week a sense of optimism wafted out of the Bali meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. ASEAN and China agreed on “guidelines” for implementing their previously agreed 2002 Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). Some players including China hailed this as a breakthrough. Others agreed with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that “It was an important first step but only a first step” and that ASEAN and China should move quickly — even urgently — toward an actual code of conduct…ASEAN made a major compromise by agreeing to drop a clause that would mandate that it form an ASEAN position before dealing with China on South China Sea issues. This gesture was important to convince China that the other claimants (Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam) are not using ASEAN to “gang up” on it. China also deserves considerable credit. It had long resisted the draft guidelines and made a major compromise by agreeing to them…

Readers are encouraged to click upon the relevant hyperlinks above to read this interesting posting in full.

As the tensions in the South China Sea seem to be subsiding there seem to be many who hope that a lasting framework can be implemented in order to deal with the myriad issues that are raised by the complexity of this multi-jurisdictional dispute. The issue of maritime freedom of navigation is an important and salient one for those nations which maintain sea power. Therefore, balancing the interests of all such parties in any agreement can be difficult and the drafting of such an agreement could be time consuming as well.  Hopefully, any possible future agreement will operate to the benefit of all concerned.

For information related to legal services in Southeast Asia please see: Legal.

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7th June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the value of trade between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is expected to increase significantly in the coming months and years. In order to provide further insight into this issue it may be best to quote directly from a recent article posted on the website English.cri.cn:

Trade value between China and ASEAN nations is expected to top 300 billion U.S. dollars this year as the Free Trade Area (FTA) continues to offer boosts, said Xu Ningning, the executive secretary general of China-ASEAN Business Council. The FTA, which started operation since the beginning of last year, has boosted economic exchanges between China and the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member states, Xu said Sunday at a forum in Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province. The estimated amount will be higher than the 292.8 billion U.S. dollars registered between the two sides in 2010, up 37.5 percent from a year earlier. Customs data showed that in the first four months of this year, trade value between China and ASEAN nations rose 26.5 percent year-on-year to 110.2 billion U.S. dollars…

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to learn more.

The ASEAN community includes the following jurisdictions: Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, the Kingdom of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and the Kingdom of Cambodia. Many feel that these jurisdictions have a great deal of potential for economic growth in the future. Meanwhile, as can be gathered from the quotation above, China remains a vibrant economic actor which has been engaging the ASEAN economies. In previous postings on this blog it was noted that the United States of America and China are committed to cooperation in ASEAN engagement. Concurrently, China appears poised to create a rail link between Thailand and Greater China while a billion dollar Chinese trade complex is to be erected in Bangkok. In that vein, the Prime Minister of Malaysia was recently noted for discussing ASEAN relations with both China and India. To quote directly from the official website of Business Standard, Business-Standard.com:

After a speech calling for the establishment of a new multilateralism where nations, especially Asia, would not have to take sides between the United States and China, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has said the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) would not need to choose between India and China. “Asean is located between two great civilisations, China and India. Both these countries, as part of the Asean architecture, the Asean +3 and the East Asia Summit, are quite happy to accept Asean as the centrality in the whole process,” Najib said in reply to a question at the opening of the International Institute for Strategic Studies Asian Security Summit: The Shangri La Dialogue. “Both these two countries want to engage constructively with Asean and (are) looking at ways and means of increasing their trade, investment and other forms of exchanges with the Asean countries. In short, I am quite optimistic we can develop a meaningful and constructive relationship with India and China,” he added…

In a geopolitical sense, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is positioned so as to enjoy trade benefits with both India and China, two of the world’s economies which are expected to show tremendous economic growth in the coming days, months, and years. This observation is made at a time when an inauguration of the Cambodian Securities Exchange is expected. To quote directly from the official website of Xinhua, Xinhuanet.com:

PHNOM PENH, May 30 (Xinhua) — Cambodia is scheduled to inaugurate the long-awaited Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX) on July 11, according to the statement of the finance ministry released to the media on Monday. And the first securities trading will begin towards the end of 2011, added the statement dated on May 26…

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks above to read this article in detail. This blogger must point out that, although noted in the aforementioned article, it would seem that actual trading on the Cambodian Stock Exchange is apparently not expected to commence upon the exchange’s inauguration. To further elucidate this point it may be best  to quote directly from the official website of the Reuters News Service, Reuters.com:

May 30 (Reuters) – Trading on Cambodia’s long-awaited stock exchange, which was scheduled to start in July, has been delayed yet again until the end of the year because companies planning listings need more time to comply with regulations, operators said on Monday. Ek Sonn Chan, director general of state-owned Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA), said there were many details still to be ironed out but his company was going ahead with plans for a $20 million flotation…

The administration of this web log asks readers to click upon the hyperlinks above to read this story in further detail as it may provide further perspective upon these developments.

Clearly, there appear to be some bumps in the road toward getting this exchange operational. As with many things in Southeast Asia, it often takes a significant amount of time to undertake a substantial project such as the opening of a stock exchange. Interested parties are encouraged to conduct research into this issue until such time as the exchange’s trading operation is confirmed.

For related information please see: Legal.

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