Like most Asian cultures, mediation has a long history in Laos and is embraced for its non-adversarial, non-confrontational nature.
At the grassroots level, Village Mediation Units in Laos play a vital role in providing conflicting parties an option for the peaceful settlement of their disputes, in line with the Lao culture of respecting traditional and religious values of unity and harmony. Such a means of resolving disputes is also preferred over formal court proceedings, which people are generally unfamiliar with. It is common to have a respected village elder, family or monk conduct the mediation; the settlement is agreed upon out of respect for hierarchy.
The Lao government also encourages mediation for civil disputes and some criminal offences to reduce the court’s backlog of cases. More importantly, the amicable settlement of disputes through mediation saves the parties costs and time, and improves access to justice.
Furthermore, Laos is keen to build its mediation capabilities at the regional and international level. The Centre for Economic Dispute Resolution (CEDR) was established for this purpose under the Lao Ministry of Justice.
We were privileged to have met representatives from the Lao Ministry of Justice, courts, and other agencies, over a seminar and lunch in Vientiane on June 14, 2019. Our meeting was an opportunity for SIMC and the Singapore Ministry of Law to exchange views on international commercial mediation, and how cross-border businesses in Laos could benefit from the Singapore Convention on Mediation.
The one-day seminar was graced by Lao PDR Vice Minister of Justice, H.E. Phayvy Syboualypha, Ms Douanmany Laomao, Director of the CEDR, and Mr Bivang Chongcher, Deputy Director General of CEDR.
Vice Minister of Justice, H.E. Phayvy Syboualypha, gave the opening remarks and acknowledged the importance of this seminar for its government officials to understand the Convention better. He stressed that Laos needed to fully understand the Convention in relation to its domestic needs. “Getting on board the Convention would boost Lao’s commercial standing,” he said. “[The session] would help us understand what preparation is required to adopt the Convention.”
Ms Sharon Ong, Director, Singapore Ministry of Law, affirmed the warm ties between Singapore and Laos. She thanked Laos for its support for the Convention to be signed in Singapore and emphasised that the Convention would resonate with all countries, including Southeast Asian countries, as mediation has deep cultural roots here.
She said, “The Convention recognises the value of international trade, provides an expedited way to resolve disputes and is simple to implement. I hope today’s session with be a fruitful one. Today is just the start… We are happy to cultivate this cooperation, to continue to work together as friends.”
SIMC CEO Mr Chuan Wee Meng also thanked the Lao government for its support. He shared the benefits of mediation for Laos and expressed his enthusiasm for more cooperation between Singapore and Laos in future.
The seminar was also timely as Laos recently amended its mediation law to allow foreign mediators to practise in Laos. Under the amended law, foreign mediators may now register with the MOJ and can act as a mediator in a case if at least one of the parties is foreign.
We are grateful to our Laotian hosts for their warm friendship and hospitality.