COVID-19 Southeast Asia Update: April 10, 2020.
Legal News & Analysis - Asia Pacific - ASEAN - Regulatory & Compliance
13 April, 2020
As the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic continues to unfold, Tilleke & Gibbins is dedicated to ensuring that you receive the most up-to-date legal developments across Southeast Asia, in a practical and direct format, to ensure that your business can comply with new regulations quickly and effectively.
With the situation developing rapidly, we understand that it can be difficult to keep up with developments, and as such we will be sending a weekly round-up of the key developments in the region. In addition, all our articles and alerts are available in full at the Tilleke & Gibbins COVID-19 Resource Center.
Here are the most significant developments for the week ending April 10, 2020.
- Cambodia. Following the prohibition of large gatherings, the closure of certain public spaces and entertainment venues, and the cessation of rice exports, the government has begun to take actions to minimize the economic effects of the outbreak, and tax relief measures and loan restructuring plans for certain sectors are being made available. Khmer New Year has been postponed, measures have been implemented to discourage employees from travelling during that period, and penalties for late renewal of work permits have been temporarily waived. However, no formal travel restrictions have been put in place and no state of emergency has been declared. The Prime Minister has urged the private sector to reduce or defer rental fees, but no legal requirement to do so is yet in place. Courts and government offices, including the Ministry of Commerce and the Department of Intellectual Property, remain fully operational.
- Indonesia. The Indonesian Ministry of Health has implemented detailed guidelines for large-scale social restrictions, which came into effect in Jakarta on April 10. These guidelines call for restrictions on transportation, closure of nonessential workplaces and educational institutions, and limitations on public gatherings. IP owners can continue to file for trademarks, patents, and copyright through the Directorate General of Intellectual Property’s online system. Courts have postponed most cases, but exceptions remain for essential or urgent cases, at the court’s discretion.
- Laos. Now under sweeping lockdown measures, the majority of Laos residents must remain in their homes, and many businesses and government offices deemed nonessential, including the Department of Intellectual Property, are closed. They are currently scheduled to reopen on April 20, subject to any further extensions. Sector-specific guidance has been issued for freight, insurance, mineral processing, and healthcare industries, which remain operational. The Bank of Laos has provided debt relief guidelines to encourage relief for those indebted to commercial lenders, but they do not yet have legal weight. The Prime Minister has issued a raft of economic support measures, including tax exemptions, social security payment deferrals, and tax holidays, while reducing government expenditure in numerous areas, including infrastructure projects, to redirect funds to the COVID-19 effort.
- Myanmar. The Myanmar government has created a COVID-19 taskforce and has focused on providing assistance to the impoverished and the families of those directly affected by COVID-19, but has not yet imposed internal lockdown measures or enforced closures of businesses or government offices (though the government is operating a 50% staff rotation system). Social security payments have been moved to a quarterly payment system, and mandatory workplace measures to prevent the spread have been introduced. Operations of courts and government functions are nominally undisrupted by the outbreak so far, but they will be closed from April 10 to April 17 for the Thingyan public holiday.
- Thailand. The Thai government's emergency decree, granting sweeping executive powers to limit the spread of the virus, has been used to ban entry to the country by non-Thai citizens (subject to limited exceptions); automatically extend visas for those unable to leave the country; close all entertainment venues and restaurants (except for the purposes of delivery and takeaway); and implement curfews and lockdowns in several provinces. Many court hearings are postponed, but government offices, including the Ministry of Commerce and Department of Intellectual Property, remain open and fully operational. The government has approved a raft of economic relief measures for businesses, in the form of debt relief for commercial loans, extensive tax relief measures, and the provision of soft, low interest loans to SMEs. In addition, social security contribution requirements have been reduced to provide relief to both employers and employees. Despite these extensive measures, many companies are being forced to make difficult decisions relating to their workforce, debtors and creditors are reviewing their options under Thai law, and the ongoing economic impact is expected to be substantial.
- Vietnam. Following the Vietnamese government's implementation of lockdown measures, the People’s Committee of Hanoi laid out additional guidelines for implementing the measures, including express lists of services deemed essential and therefore allowed to open. Some companies can remain open, including manufacturing facilities, but they must observe extensive precautions. Travel and visa restrictions remain in place. Many government offices, including the Intellectual Property Office of Vietnam, are physically closed until further notice, but continue to accept filings through online means. IP deadlines falling between March 30, 2020, and April 30, 2020, will automatically be extended until May 30, 2020. Courts remain open with limited operations. Faced with potential default on contractual obligations, many companies are seeking relief under the often-misunderstood force majeure laws or through difficult HR decisions.
For further information, please contact:
Darani Vachanavuttivong, Partner, Tilleke & Gibbins