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Burma's strong and weak points compared to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos?


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Please move to correct sub-forum, my error...

I mean for expatriates not involved in politics and who don't have savings of over 6 figures.and who have no interest in wheeling and dealing in the corporate world (small business *maybe*). I cannot compare to Laos (Vientiane) as my trips there have been infrequent. I have been to Vietnam (Saigon) many times and worked there over the last 20 years, as well living and working extensively in Phnom Penh for the last 18 years.

Factors

1. ease of visas (Burma is much worse than Cambodia which is one of the easiest places in Asia to stay long term, Burma worse than Vietnam sounds like)

2. low cost of living (accommodation is MUCH higher than either, food not sure. Cambdoia is cheap)

3. vegetarian food (hassle in Hanoi, OK in HCMC, not bad in PNH)

4. nightlife (Cambodia is a fallen star, Laos never shone)

5. banking infrastructure (Cambodia excels)

6. 'Open for business' (Cambodia good, although real estate prices high; Vietnam keeps *talking* about liberalizing. blah, blah, blah)

7. Theravada culture (like Cambodia and Laos)

8. Trading in luxury goods (precious metals buying and selling is open in Cambodia though limited to gold and aloeswood resin, Vietnam gov't periodically interferes in the gold market; does Burma mine silver? It does of course have an active coloured stones market)

9. low population density (Cambodia excels, I find Vietnam rather crowded, everywhere)

10. easy-going people (Cambodia excels to the extreme - hard to get stuff done really; I find Vietnam too intense)

11. swimming (beaches near Sihanoukville excellent, a smattering of public pools in PNH at low cost)

12. TCM and ayurveda (Vietnam gov't hassles practitioners of traditional medicine, Cambodia has some TCM but no Indian system. As Burma is a a mix of South Asia and SEA, perhaps it has equivalent)

13. Reliable and good value modern hospitals (Cambodia is horrible, Vietnam excels)

14. Easy lingo (Viet is a killer, Khmer OK)

15. Attractive women (Except for Shan/Thai Yai, I was wasn't impressed compared to Cambodia and Vietnam)

Fundamentally, my question is IF you spend a lot of time in Yangon, other than JJs and Shwedagaon Pagoda - what's the point of doing so considering other similar options in the region?

Edited by hermespan
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there are some businesses run by foreigners. In Mandalay I know of a pub, a motorcycle rental business. When I say run by foreigners, it at least appears that way outwardly. On paper they are quite possibly in the name of locals.

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I spent the last 18 months in Yangon. First 8-10 months were interesting, in a sense of colonial buildings, mountains up north. But that's about it, boring, power outages, rain season is ending, and it does rain here ALOT. People are friendly. Street food is a BIG RISK. Sidewalks all torn up. I can say out of 15+ countries I worked, this was a nighmare.

Expensive housing, hotels, the food is not cheap, unless you want to eat in a hotel, free standing restaurants that are affordable are hard to find.

Edited by richusa
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there are some businesses run by foreigners. In Mandalay I know of a pub, a motorcycle rental business. When I say run by foreigners, it at least appears that way outwardly. On paper they are quite possibly in the name of locals.

correct, Zach is renting motorcycles but i wouldn't say he is running the business

The pub , i did not know about ( wish i had known where it was when i was there in July)

I found the people very friendly and very open, had quite a few good discussion with locals ( one Burmese educated man was teaching English) and some very wealthy guys up in Mogok.

totally disagree about Cambodia an laos

Do agree Thailand still comes out on top

Edited by phuketrichard
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catweazle says he has not been to Vietnam and then guesses they hate Americans. Quite the OPPOSITE in my experience. They like and RESPECT americans, which is more than I can say for Thai officials/politicians and regulations.

I enjoyed Vietnam, but and the food was great, but it is a bit more hectic than Thailand and run by dictators. Which place was that? Oh yeah, Vietnam. Of course we have never had an american President that I voted for either, so not so different.

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I have lived and worked in all the neighbouring countries. Enjoyed lots in the other countries, food, sights, people, but taking everything into account, number one for me is still Thailand and second North Viet Nam.

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I find of all the countries you mentioned, Vietnam has the least friendly people, with the worst attitude. Really feels like they are carrying around the burden of the past two centuries on their shoulders, ever hour of every day. They are just not happy or fulfilled, by the looks of it. Not particularly warm, nor welcoming. At least that has been my experience from three visits, over 15 years, in both the north and the south. Most of what I mention was more pronounced in the north, and especially the rural areas. People in tourist related businesses in the big cities tried to be nice, sometimes. The Thai people seem far more fulfilled. Burmese are kind and warm. Same with Laos. So, from my point of view, that puts Vietnam on the least friendly list.

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was just there

  • Hotel Accommodations are ok in low season, crazy in high, For long term rent VERY EXPENSIVE
  • food sucks compared to Thailand, Cambodia but u can get good local food but not cheap, $3-5/meal for a good sit down meal.
  • Visas u can get a 70 day Business visa if u have contacts inside the country,
  • tourists visas 28 days easy to get in Bangkok but no extension in country
  • Nightlife (i can only speak about Mandalay an Bagan) nothing for westerners at all
  • Real estate is CRAZY!!!
  • Burmese very friendly ,Women are beautiful,( i Love the tikha powder on their faces)
  • Not crowded

some not on your list;

  • Internet is slow
  • Smart phones everywhere but sims are hard to get and expensive ( $150)
  • calls are expensive
  • Can not travel everywhere an many places you need special permits which cost $$$$
  • I liked it there but it could be dam boring living there

Did NOT see ANY business's ( rests, gh, bars, entertainment places, anything) run by westerners.

The Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) has expanded the list of businesses that can be owned 100 per cent by foreign investors, as the country aims to attract more foreign investment.

http://www.elevenmyanmar.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7338:foreign-investors-permitted-full-ownership-of-more-businesses&catid=33:business&Itemid=356

am sure seavision can offer a lot more

There is a bakery in Yangon run by an American lady located in the same building as the China Southern Airlines office. Don't remember the name but it's somewhere not far from Inya Lake.

I have heard of a motorcycle rental business in Mandalay run by an expat too. In both cases I think they only arrived in the last couple of years so it will take a while for foreign run places to become ubiquitous, but it is starting to happen. Also, an Aussie who is a member of this forum lives in Dawei and runs the southern Myanmar website.

However, unlike in neighboring countries, foreign run businesses, just like any other group of foreigners tend to be found only in bigger cities, for example Yangon and Mandalay, NOT Hpa-an, Myawady, Tachilek, etc. but that could change.

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was just there

  • Hotel Accommodations are ok in low season, crazy in high, For long term rent VERY EXPENSIVE
  • food sucks compared to Thailand, Cambodia but u can get good local food but not cheap, $3-5/meal for a good sit down meal.
  • Visas u can get a 70 day Business visa if u have contacts inside the country,
  • tourists visas 28 days easy to get in Bangkok but no extension in country
  • Nightlife (i can only speak about Mandalay an Bagan) nothing for westerners at all
  • Real estate is CRAZY!!!
  • Burmese very friendly ,Women are beautiful,( i Love the tikha powder on their faces)
  • Not crowded

some not on your list;

  • Internet is slow
  • Smart phones everywhere but sims are hard to get and expensive ( $150)
  • calls are expensive
  • Can not travel everywhere an many places you need special permits which cost $$$$
  • I liked it there but it could be dam boring living there

Did NOT see ANY business's ( rests, gh, bars, entertainment places, anything) run by westerners.

The Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) has expanded the list of businesses that can be owned 100 per cent by foreign investors, as the country aims to attract more foreign investment.

http://www.elevenmyanmar.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7338:foreign-investors-permitted-full-ownership-of-more-businesses&catid=33:business&Itemid=356

am sure seavision can offer a lot more

There is a bakery in Yangon run by an American lady located in the same building as the China Southern Airlines office. Don't remember the name but it's somewhere not far from Inya Lake.

I have heard of a motorcycle rental business in Mandalay run by an expat too. In both cases I think they only arrived in the last couple of years so it will take a while for foreign run places to become ubiquitous, but it is starting to happen. Also, an Aussie who is a member of this forum lives in Dawei and runs the southern Myanmar website.

However, unlike in neighboring countries, foreign run businesses, just like any other group of foreigners tend to be found only in bigger cities, for example Yangon and Mandalay, NOT Hpa-an, Myawady, Tachilek, etc. but that could change.

Ok great 2 foreign owned business's in a country of 60++ million ( websites dont count)

I mentioned Zach in Mandalay, he has 6 or 7 bikes but that's not the main business of his wife's family.

As far as i understand it, it is NOT easy to set up a small business like u see in Thailand, Cambodia, laos for foreigners to run.

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Ok great 2 foreign owned business's in a country of 60++ million ( websites dont count)

I mentioned Zach in Mandalay, he has 6 or 7 bikes but that's not the main business of his wife's family.

As far as i understand it, it is NOT easy to set up a small business like u see in Thailand, Cambodia, laos for foreigners to run.

Well I would be an example of a foreign owned business.

There are a few of foreign owned businesses here, most stem from the 'gold rush' of the mid nineties (when the MIC first came into existence). If you're talking about ones with more visibility, i.e. the ones you're likely to come across on a trip or a visit to Yangon, then you may come across places such as 50th St. Bar & Grill, L'Opera, Le Planteur, Union Bar and a few others. If you went to Bagan and took a hot air balloon ride then that would be foreign owned, or if you stayed at a certain hotel on Ngapali beach or up in Mandalay. However, most of the expats who have been here 15 years plus would be involved in businesses that you wouldn't see on a holiday to Yangon, I use myself as an example, unless of course a tour of the industrial zones is what interests you! Many, but certainly not all, are foreigners married to Myanmar citizens, some are 100% foreign owned, some joint ventures and some who trade under their spouse's name are 100% Myanmar owned.

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so i guess there are a few ( i did mention i did not go to Yangoon)

but still its nothing like it is in Cambodia or Thailand

and that was my point

In my opinion foreigners in Thailand are less visible in running businesses than in any other East Asian country, Myanmar included. Only in some touristy places have I seen foreigners "visible" in their restaurants, bars or whatever. For example, a pizza restaurant in Koh Chang with an Italian owner and his Thai wife. Or the Canadian restaurant in Mae Sot. Or a Belgian bar in Chiang Mai. But almost everywhere else, at any given "resort" or bar, or restaurant, I rarely see foreigners in charge, helping guests or anything, only Thais and I travel throughout Thailand by car very regularly and stay in and frequent many types of businesses.

Maybe it's because in Thailand, foreigners aren't supposed to "work" as such in these businesses. While it's common to see a westerner run the bar at a western owned restaurant/bar in China, Cambodia, even Vietnam, in Thailand foreigners are supposed to manage only, not work. That's the main difference I've seen.

I was surprised when the Italian guy at Koh Chang was cleaning and delivering our orders, but I'm not sure he was supposed to be doing any of those things.

And OK maybe I just don't travel to the really, really touristy places like Pattaya or Phuket to know what's going on there, but as I've said, from my experience I've always seen foreigners much more "hands-on" in their business whether it's in Myanmar, China, Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam than in Thailand. But it could be because of the peculiarities of Thai law governing what foreigners can and can't do inside their own businesses.

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Oh, another difference. This is I consider a plus for Burma and a minus for its neighbours by comparison. Burma is multi-ethnic. Vietnam, except for a small Chinese minority and tribals in the mountains, is a monolithic culture. Thailand, like Cambodia, is overwhelmingly Thai except in border areas and those who do the s:$&! work.

And with one fanatical cultural element Thais are more openly critical of their government than the Burmese. I even had a Vietnamese businessman lecturing me on the evils of communism ('No, China is the teacher, Vietnam is the student' was his reply to my suggestion that China had liberalized). In two trips to Burma I heard no political talk. Even in Cuba a Protestant activist was hurling insults at Castro in our conversation. Not a peep in Burma.

While I do not advocate or personally use recreational drugs, Cambodia is a lot more loosey goosey than Burma and I hear Laos has aromatic coffee shop where Marc Emery woukd feel at ease. What the influence of gangsters is in Burma compared to its neighbours and what is the level of police corruption (convenient for petty matters, scary for big ones) I do not know.

Banking is far superior in Cambodia than any other country in the region.

I agree with the poster that Cambodia tolerates barang small-time business operators much better than Thailand does. And Burma too?

Regarding language Vietnamese is easier to read due to a (some would say bizarre) adaptation of Roman script. But Vietnamese is a *very* tough lingo to master. Burman can't be harder. Khmer, being non-tonal is a lot easier. The only lingos easier in *all* of SEA is Bahasa Melayu/Indonesia and various lingos if the Philippines. ut let's not go there (including the archipeligoes, Borneo and Malaysian penninsula because already the scope of abswering this question is so wide

My question demains unanswered: Why is everyone rushing to Burma? Is it the usual reasons - sex, money and power? Or are the foreign entrepreneurs and corporate employees enamoured of the sunsets over pagodas?

Edited by hermespan
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And with one fanatical cultural element Thais are more openly critical of their government than the Burmese. I even had a Vietnamese businessman lecturing me on the evils of communism ('No, China is the teacher, Vietnam is the student' was his reply to my suggestion that China had liberalized). In two trips to Burma I heard no political talk. Even in Cuba a Protestant activist was hurling insults at Castro in our conversation. Not a peep in Burma.

Politics is widely discussed in Myanmar. You'll find everyone from a group of Taxi drivers sitting around the tea shop on their lunch break discussing what's going on, to posts on social media. I suspect you may not have witnessed it because you were not subjected to it, this is common, most Burmese will not initiate a 'political' conversation with a foreigner and will be reluctant to engage in one if approached. It varies according to the individual as to why not, with some it's apathy, with others it's embarrassment and for some there's even a measure of fear thrown in.

What the influence of gangsters is in Burma compared to its neighbours and what is the level of police corruption (convenient for petty matters, scary for big ones) I do not know.

The Police in Myanmar are totally corrupt as are the courts. They tend to leave foreigners alone though, I'd argue that you'd have to be pretty stupid to attract their attention.

I agree with the poster that Cambodia tolerates barang small-time business operators much better than Thailand does. And Burma too?

I don't know anything about Cambodia, but one thing I do know is that the Myanmar Government is not particularly interested in attracting small businesses. They see that as the domain of the local entrepreneurs and although it's possible to set them up, it's a pain in the proverbial...

My question demains unanswered: Why is everyone rushing to Burma? Is it the usual reasons - sex, money and power? Or are the foreign entrepreneurs and corporate employees enamoured of the sunsets over pagodas?

I don't think people are rushing to Burma, I don't see it. People rushed in to have a look and as the local joke goes, they quickly rushed back to the airport. Of course there are more foreigners than there used to be, but the conversation here tends to be more along the lines of 'why are more foreigners not coming?'. The simple truth is that the Myanmar Government has largely failed at attracting foreign investment, something the Government themselves have recently started to acknowledge.

As a footnote, there is a sizeable Vietnamese community here in Yangon, can't say I've ever heard of a Cambodian one though. I know a couple of Vietnamese, their general feeling is that Myanmar now, is where they were 20 odd years ago. They like the Myanmar people though.

Edited by DagonKhan
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so i guess there are a few ( i did mention i did not go to Yangoon)

but still its nothing like it is in Cambodia or Thailand

and that was my point

In my opinion foreigners in Thailand are less visible in running businesses than in any other East Asian country, Myanmar included. Only in some touristy places have I seen foreigners "visible" in their restaurants, bars or whatever. For example, a pizza restaurant in Koh Chang with an Italian owner and his Thai wife. Or the Canadian restaurant in Mae Sot. Or a Belgian bar in Chiang Mai. But almost everywhere else, at any given "resort" or bar, or restaurant, I rarely see foreigners in charge, helping guests or anything, only Thais and I travel throughout Thailand by car very regularly and stay in and frequent many types of businesses.

Maybe it's because in Thailand, foreigners aren't supposed to "work" as such in these businesses. While it's common to see a westerner run the bar at a western owned restaurant/bar in China, Cambodia, even Vietnam, in Thailand foreigners are supposed to manage only, not work. That's the main difference I've seen.

I was surprised when the Italian guy at Koh Chang was cleaning and delivering our orders, but I'm not sure he was supposed to be doing any of those things.

And OK maybe I just don't travel to the really, really touristy places like Pattaya or Phuket to know what's going on there, but as I've said, from my experience I've always seen foreigners much more "hands-on" in their business whether it's in Myanmar, China, Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam than in Thailand. But it could be because of the peculiarities of Thai law governing what foreigners can and can't do inside their own businesses.

Foreigners in Thailand are less visible in running businesses? Where do you live? I know quote a number of restaurants, hotels and pubs run by foreigners, and it is not difficult to get a work permit if you do it right. You don't need to go to really touristy places for that. Almost any provincial town will do.

But I am thinking of manufacturers, importers and exporters, business service providers and other professions. If you do business in Thailand yourself, you will see them. If you are a tourist, probably not - but that is the same as in every country. I even know quite a number of foreigners in Thailand who will do business only with foreigners (even though I don't subscribe to that philosophy).

Edited by onthemoon
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Strong and weak points:

Myanmar

Lots of business opportunities, lots of risk. It is a relationship-based economy. Legal system is weak to non-existent. I haven't opened a company there yet, but friend told me they had to jump through hoops to get their company registered.

Laos

Fewer business opportunities but there they are. Less competition. Nice people. Foreign investment requires US$ 120,000 minimum capital, which for small businesses is way too much.

Cambodia

Truly emerging market, look at the past few years. Easy to open a company as a foreigner (no minimum investment, no minimum number of staff). Economy is also relationship-based, but it is easier now than it used to be to get new customers by just having the better service or price. There is just too much new buying power for anyone to ignore.

Thailand

Of course, it takes the cake. Opening a business may have more obstacles than Cambodia, but most people also live where they work, and Thailand beats any country in the region. I know people who work for less in Thailand than they would get in neighbouring countries, even though the cost of living here are higher. (I am excepting Malaysia from this, and it is not part of the discussion.)

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  • 3 months later...

so i guess there are a few ( i did mention i did not go to Yangoon)

but still its nothing like it is in Cambodia or Thailand

and that was my point

In my opinion foreigners in Thailand are less visible in running businesses than in any other East Asian country, Myanmar included. Only in some touristy places have I seen foreigners "visible" in their restaurants, bars or whatever. For example, a pizza restaurant in Koh Chang with an Italian owner and his Thai wife. Or the Canadian restaurant in Mae Sot. Or a Belgian bar in Chiang Mai. But almost everywhere else, at any given "resort" or bar, or restaurant, I rarely see foreigners in charge, helping guests or anything, only Thais and I travel throughout Thailand by car very regularly and stay in and frequent many types of businesses.

Maybe it's because in Thailand, foreigners aren't supposed to "work" as such in these businesses. While it's common to see a westerner run the bar at a western owned restaurant/bar in China, Cambodia, even Vietnam, in Thailand foreigners are supposed to manage only, not work. That's the main difference I've seen.

I was surprised when the Italian guy at Koh Chang was cleaning and delivering our orders, but I'm not sure he was supposed to be doing any of those things.

And OK maybe I just don't travel to the really, really touristy places like Pattaya or Phuket to know what's going on there, but as I've said, from my experience I've always seen foreigners much more "hands-on" in their business whether it's in Myanmar, China, Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam than in Thailand. But it could be because of the peculiarities of Thai law governing what foreigners can and can't do inside their own businesses.

Foreigners in Thailand are less visible in running businesses? Where do you live? I know quote a number of restaurants, hotels and pubs run by foreigners, and it is not difficult to get a work permit if you do it right. You don't need to go to really touristy places for that. Almost any provincial town will do.

But I am thinking of manufacturers, importers and exporters, business service providers and other professions. If you do business in Thailand yourself, you will see them. If you are a tourist, probably not - but that is the same as in every country. I even know quite a number of foreigners in Thailand who will do business only with foreigners (even though I don't subscribe to that philosophy).

I'm in Bangkok and yes, my point stands. They are less "visible" only in the sense that they are working behind the scenes. You simply don't see a foreigner, particularly a westerner make a cocktail behind the bar, take your order, serve your lunch etc. because my understanding is they aren't supposed to be doing those things! The exception seems to be in out of the way places like Mae Sot where foreigners are mostly left to their own devices and nobody is going to bother someone who's been running the same restaurant, trouble-free, for 15-20 years. However even there the foreign owner only helps out with these tasks if the other staff members are busy.

What I said also does NOT imply that foreigners have more difficulty in obtaining work permits or getting their businesses up and running, compared to other countries. No, not at all. It's just that it seems that foreigners running businesses in Thailand have their place in the pecking order, which means if they are running a hospitality related business such as a restaurant, bar or hotel, they will almost always be somewhere in the background. Interacting with guests, taking orders, cleaning etc. is, as strange as it sounds, not supposed to be something a foreigner should be doing (unless said foreigner is a migrant worker from Laos, Cambodia or Myanmar and specifically employed for such purpose). In terms of the number of businesses run by foreigners in Thailand, yes, the numbers could well be much higher than in every neighboring country combined. However what does stand out for me whenever I visit Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam etc. whether on business or for pleasure is the number of westerners running restaurants, bars etc. who are legally able to interact with their customers, make the drinks, the food etc. all without having to specifically force a local to do everything for them. In Thailand it's almost certain I'll get a local to take my order, make my food and unless the foreign owner happens to be on the premises, I'm unlikely to even know whether the place I'm visiting is foreign managed, let alone see/meet the manager.

When it comes to other types of businesses that are non-hospitality related it's a very different story in terms of the visibility of foreigners. Indeed there are lots of foreigners working in all sorts of companies in Thailand, mainly in Bangkok. In fact it seems that most companies, whether they are in marketing, real estate, retail, engineering/manufacturing etc. will have at least a foreigner or two working for them in some capacity, mostly in marketing, sales or other roles where a high degree of fluency in English is required and which may require interaction with foreign customers, both locally based and/or overseas based.

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Strong and weak points:

Myanmar

Lots of business opportunities, lots of risk. It is a relationship-based economy. Legal system is weak to non-existent. I haven't opened a company there yet, but friend told me they had to jump through hoops to get their company registered.

Laos

Fewer business opportunities but there they are. Less competition. Nice people. Foreign investment requires US$ 120,000 minimum capital, which for small businesses is way too much.

Cambodia

Truly emerging market, look at the past few years. Easy to open a company as a foreigner (no minimum investment, no minimum number of staff). Economy is also relationship-based, but it is easier now than it used to be to get new customers by just having the better service or price. There is just too much new buying power for anyone to ignore.

Thailand

Of course, it takes the cake. Opening a business may have more obstacles than Cambodia, but most people also live where they work, and Thailand beats any country in the region. I know people who work for less in Thailand than they would get in neighbouring countries, even though the cost of living here are higher. (I am excepting Malaysia from this, and it is not part of the discussion.)

Where did you get the information about Laos? Nowhere have I heard about such high investment requirements. I highly doubt that information is accurate, or even if it is, it's just in theory not in practice - there are plenty of foreigners running small businesses in Laos including restaurants, hotels, bars and all sorts of things. I am quite certain by the looks of most of them all that was needed were a few thousand dollars to start them up, certainly not US$120,000. In fact when I next head over to my favorite Chinese restaurant in Vientiane I'll ask the owner how much he needed in start up costs.

Also, in a country like Laos where you have a labour shortage and yet still have ridiculous laws that foreign companies don't follow anyways such as the labour laws like no more than 20% of skilled labour can be foreigners or no more than 10% can be foreigners, which is widely ignored anyway - most Chinese and Vietnamese companies use 100% foreign labour from their own countries and get away with it very easily. Could just be that they're willing to pay a bribe. But hey, that's Laos for you.

I'm also about to start up a business in Laos (not hospitality related btw) and since it's possible for the company to be 100% foreign owned, Laos is quite attractive and easier to start up than Thailand, where the laws are more stringently enforced and a 4-1 local worker ratio is both required and enforced.

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  • 3 years later...

Cat ji bumped this old thread, so I'll add a few of my comments.

I lived and worked in Thailand from 2002 - 2011 (built/managed small hotels in Phuket), then lived in Yangon 2012/2013 (English teacher/assistant principal), then Luang Prabang, Laos in 2014 (headmaster), then back to Myanmar in 2015 (English teacher in Mandalay) and since 2016 to the present day I'm an English, Science and STEM teacher at the international school in Naypyidaw, (where I'm very content and hope not to move again....)


People rushed in to have a look and as the local joke goes, they quickly rushed back to the airport.



DagonKhan made this comment in 2014 and IMHO, it still holds 100% true. I read the local news websites (Mizzima, MMTimes, Irrawaddy), and the news of international or 'Western' companies closing their Myanmar offices or opting to invest elsewhere is commonplace.

Just a few days ago, Samsung decided against building a mobile phone/home appliances factory in Myanmar, due to the local economic and political environment. They already have 3 factories in Vietnam and it sounds like they will continue to invest in that country.

The first US law firm to open offices in Yangon has now closed, citing lack of customers, because few foreign companies are investing in Myanmar.

Why is this? My own experience from dealing with the government ministries in Naypyidaw is that any decision (such as whose turn is it to make the office coffee today?), has to be passed up the line of management authority, because every employee and their boss and their boss's boss is too scared of actually making any positive decision, in case the 'big boss' doesn't agree.

So nothing moves forward, everything starts to stagnate, and they all wonder why investment is going into other, more forward-thinking countries.

Anyway, I'm an employee now, not a businessman. These economic and political decisions don't affect me one iota (except for my Myanmar radio ham licence, which I'm still waiting for after 6 years of asking for it...).
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  • 1 month later...

Despite a boom in offshore oil and gas exploration around 2015 and a coincident but smaller surge of the same work onshore, very few E&P companies retain an office and full-time expat staff in Yangon. A lot of explorationists involved with Myanmar tend to run their 'Burma desk' out of another, regional office such as KL or Singapore. Not sure if it's a cost issue, a visa and WP issue or a board and lodging issue but the collapse in global oil prices probably didn't help. I have been involved with onshore exploration here since the new year and the whole permitting process is the biggest time waster as noted earlier. The excessively long time to get the top-level government permission is only matched by the excruciatingly long time it takes for such permissions to trickle down to regional, provincial and municipal levels. Both projects started about 6 months late and thus remain uncompleted despite the initial approvals being obtained almost a year earlier. I have heard from those involved with similar ventures over the past 2-3 years that this is par for the course.

 

Compared with my +12 years in the same game in Vietnam where they also have an overreaching bureaucracy with approvals coming from the PM's office, the trickle down is a lot faster... unless you time things very badly and lose traction due to Tet. Vietnam has a tad more dynamism.

 

I hope to add Laos to my portfolio before I hang up my boots but the last thrash for oil in Savanakhet drilled a duster about 7 years ago and there's been little uptake since. Bit of a bugger being land-locked too.

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Despite a boom in offshore oil and gas exploration around 2015 and a coincident but smaller surge of the same work onshore, very few E&P companies retain an office and full-time expat staff in Yangon. A lot of explorationists involved with Myanmar tend to run their 'Burma desk' out of another, regional office such as KL or Singapore. Not sure if it's a cost issue, a visa and WP issue or a board and lodging issue but the collapse in global oil prices probably didn't help. I have been involved with onshore exploration here since the new year and the whole permitting process is the biggest time waster as noted earlier. The excessively long time to get the top-level government permission is only matched by the excruciatingly long time it takes for such permissions to trickle down to regional, provincial and municipal levels. Both projects started about 6 months late and thus remain uncompleted despite the initial approvals being obtained almost a year earlier. I have heard from those involved with similar ventures over the past 2-3 years that this is par for the course.

 

Compared with my +12 years in the same game in Vietnam where they also have an overreaching bureaucracy with approvals coming from the PM's office, the trickle down is a lot faster... unless you time things very badly and lose traction due to Tet. Vietnam has a tad more dynamism.

 

I hope to add Laos to my portfolio before I hang up my boots but the last thrash for oil in Savanakhet drilled a duster about 7 years ago and there's been little uptake since. Bit of a bugger being land-locked too.

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On 9/6/2014 at 3:00 AM, hermespan said:

Oh, another difference. This is I consider a plus for Burma and a minus for its neighbours by comparison. Burma is multi-ethnic. Vietnam, except for a small Chinese minority and tribals in the mountains, is a monolithic culture. Thailand, like Cambodia, is overwhelmingly Thai except in border areas and those who do the s:$&! work.

And with one fanatical cultural element Thais are more openly critical of their government than the Burmese. I even had a Vietnamese businessman lecturing me on the evils of communism ('No, China is the teacher, Vietnam is the student' was his reply to my suggestion that China had liberalized). In two trips to Burma I heard no political talk. Even in Cuba a Protestant activist was hurling insults at Castro in our conversation. Not a peep in Burma.

While I do not advocate or personally use recreational drugs, Cambodia is a lot more loosey goosey than Burma and I hear Laos has aromatic coffee shop where Marc Emery woukd feel at ease. What the influence of gangsters is in Burma compared to its neighbours and what is the level of police corruption (convenient for petty matters, scary for big ones) I do not know.

Banking is far superior in Cambodia than any other country in the region.

I agree with the poster that Cambodia tolerates barang small-time business operators much better than Thailand does. And Burma too?

Regarding language Vietnamese is easier to read due to a (some would say bizarre) adaptation of Roman script. But Vietnamese is a *very* tough lingo to master. Burman can't be harder. Khmer, being non-tonal is a lot easier. The only lingos easier in *all* of SEA is Bahasa Melayu/Indonesia and various lingos if the Philippines. ut let's not go there (including the archipeligoes, Borneo and Malaysian penninsula because already the scope of abswering this question is so wide

My question demains unanswered: Why is everyone rushing to Burma? Is it the usual reasons - sex, money and power? Or are the foreign entrepreneurs and corporate employees enamoured of the sunsets over pagodas?

 

 

The Great Frontier?

 

 

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