Jurisdiction - Myanmar
Reports and Analysis
Myanmar – Accedes To New York Convention.
9 August, 2013

Legal News & Analysis – Asia Pacific – Myanmar – Dispute Resolution

 

Summary

 

On July 15, 2013, Myanmar acceded to the New York Convention on the Recognition of Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958 (the “New York Convention”). 

The next step is for Myanmar’s parliament to implement domestic legislation setting 

out the necessary framework for the Myanmar courts to give effect to dispute resolution mechanisms contractually agreed between parties and for the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards in Myanmar.

 

Pending such implementation, the current arbitration regime as set out below will continue to apply. In their selection of the dispute resolution mechanism to be applied in respect of their investments in Myanmar, foreign investors would need to consider the potential i

mpact of the current investment regime as well as the transitional period prior to the full implementation of the New York Convention.

 

Analysis

 

Current Arbitration Regime

 

Arbitration in Myanmar is subject to the Arbitration Act 1944 (“Arbitration Act”). Under Myanmar law, agreements to submit to arbitration under the Arbitration Act are not exclusive and the Myanmar courts have the discretion to retain a supervisory role over 

the conduct of the arbitration and enforcement of the award. 

 

Arbitration outside of Myanmar in disputes involving a Myanmar party is theoretically possible, but the difficulty is that Myanmar law currently does not provide satisfactorily for the enforcement of agreements to submit disputes to arbitration outside Myanmar or for the recognition of foreign awards. Investors may draw limited comfort 

from the current patchwork of enforcement and protection mechanisms but, in practice, these mechanisms suffer from limitations.

 

For example, although Myanmar is a signatory to the Geneva Convention on the 

Execution of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1927 (“Geneva Convention”), the two main 

constraints are first, the limited number of signatories to the convention who are “reciprocating territories” and second, even if the Geneva Convention is applicable, 

the enforcing party must still obtain recognition of the award from the courts in the 

country of origin before making a further application for recognition of the award 

from the courts in the jurisdiction in which the award is to be enforced (i.e. Myanmar). 

The latter issue does not arise under the New York Convention

 

The other possible protections that are often cited are the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement 2009 and a small number of bilateral 

investment treaties, to which Myanmar is party. To date, we understand that 

enforcement of foreign arbitral awards under these mechanisms is untested 

and it is therefore difficult to predict the outcome of such enforcement actions 

in the Myanmar courts. 

It is also important to note that Myanmar’s recently enacted Foreign Investment Law expressly recognizes that disputes can be settled in accordance with the mechanism specified by the parties in the agreement but does not go so far as to set out a 

framework for the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards.

 

Transition to New York Convention – Caution required

 

In respect of the New York Convention, there are two significant developments that 

should be watched closely by investors. 

 

First, the domestic legislation adopted by the Myanmar parliament to comply with 

Myanmar’s obligations under the New York Convention. We understand that the 

new draft arbitration law will be based on the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration but there is no certainty as to the specific 

provisions of the new draft arbitration law and the timing of its enactment.

 

Second, and perhaps more fundamental to the arbitration regime in Myanmar, is the domestic courts’ attitude towards the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards in Myanmar. Under the New York Convention, domestic courts retain the discretion to 

refuse to enforce a foreign arbitral award on the basis that it would be contrary to 

public policy of that country. How the Myanmar courts interpret this exception 

ultimately will determine the effectiveness of the New York Convention for arbitral 

awards to be enforced in Myanmar.

 

Conclusion

 

Myanmar’s accession to the New York Convention is a move welcomed by many foreign investors. However, given the nascent stage of the implementation of the New York Convention and the grey areas highlighted above, foreign investors 

evaluating investments in Myanmar should consult their advisors to fully 

understand these changes and their possible application to particular situations.

 

 

For further information, please contact:
 
Mae Shan Chong, Partner, White & Case
mchong@whitecase.com
 
Jonathan Olier, Partner, White & Case
jolier@whitecase.com

 

Barry L. Wall, Partner, White & Case
nnelivigi@whitecase.com
 

      

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